CBS NEWS — British researchers have created a special gel that could be used to help repair damage caused by heart attacks.

Mice heart cells were observed still beating and swimming in a gel made from stem cells at the University of Manchester in England. The heart cells were healthy, but researchers believe the stem cell gel could be used to heal damaged heart tissue following a heart attack.

“Once delivered to the heart, it stayed in the heart, and it remained there for two weeks,” says Katharine King from the University of Manchester’s Institute for Cardiovascular Sciences.
The gel also keeps the regenerating stem cells alive and functioning.

In the past, surgeons have tried to repair heart tissue by injecting stem cells not encased in gel into the heart, but the cells have not survived.

“So, it’s looking like a very promising kind of, the way that it would stay there and be able to hold the cells there long enough for them to kind of integrate into the heart,” King says.

The next step for researchers will be to inject the stem cell gel into mice heart cells damaged by a heart attack. If successful, human trials could follow.

“But in order to get into clinical studies, we have to ensure that the hydrogel itself is compatible with the human body, that the stem cells are produced in a way that is safe and reproducible. It will be a matter of years before this technology can get through into the clinic,” says James Leiper from the British Heart Foundation.

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Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and in the United States.

Researchers say the best way to keep a healthy heart is to prevent heart disease in the first place with a healthy diet, exercise, stress management, and avoiding all forms of tobacco.