A new gene therapy technique has the potential to treat heart patients with an injection instead of risky transplant surgery, according to researchers at Harefield Hospital in Middlesex and Imperial College London. They are conducting a trial, in which heart attack patients waiting for a transplant will undergo the revolutionary new therapy that should see them avoid having to undergo the operation altogether, reports the Telegraph.
Researchers have been given approval to use a genetically modified virus to treat 16 patients waiting for heart transplants.
They claim that the treatment - the first of its kind in the UK - can be used to help the heart recover from the damage caused during a cardiac arrest by helping the muscles around damaged heart tissue to beat harder and faster.
This helps to compensate for the damage and enables the heart to recover most of its original function.
"We are aiming to make the most of the heart muscle that a patient has left after a heart attack," Professor Sian Harding, a cardiac pharmacologist at Imperial College London, who is leading the trial, said.
"In cases where they suffer a lot of damage, patients are given pumps called Left Ventricular Assist Devices that support the heart while they wait for a transplant. We hope to be able to wean them off the pumps to the point it can be removed and they can live a normal life.
"If it works it will allow patients to keep their own heart without the need for a transplant," Harding added.
Heart attacks occur when part of the heart muscle is starved of oxygen and dies.