Clinical trial: Stem cells can help regrow healthy heart tissue, shrink scars

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The Monday before Valentine’s Day has brought word that doctors may soon have a new tool for helping mend broken hearts — real ones, that is.

A clinical trial at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles shows that heart attack patients who receive stem cells derived from their own hearts can regrow healthy heart tissue and shrink the scar tissue caused by heart attacks.

Researchers say the patients showed, on average, a 50 percent reduction in scar size, one year after the treatment. But the patients in the control group — the ones who received no stem cells — showed no reduction in scar size at all.

Scientists say the discovery challenges the belief that heart attack scars are permanent and that damaged heart muscle can’t be reversed.

The clinical trial was part of a study supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.