A new artificial pump along with the intake of certain drugs could enable a failing heart to rest and repair itself, say scientists in Britain.
The temporary pumps, known as Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVADs), are currently used in patients with severe heart failure while they await transplantation, reported the online edition of BBC News.
The LVAD takes on the work of one of the heart's four chambers, the left ventricle, which pumps oxygen-rich blood from the heart around the body.
Experts from Imperial College London and the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust administered the combination therapy to 15 severely ill patients and found that 11 of them recovered.
Eight of these patients were alive, free of heart failure and did not need a transplant for more than four years.
Magdi Yacoub, from the Heart Science Centre at the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust, said: "We are impressed by the dramatic, sustained improvement in the condition of these severely ill patients. The improvement observed was far greater than what has been reported to date for any other therapy.
"The study also highlights the fact that 'end stage' heart failure can be reversed and that the heart has the capacity to regenerate itself."
Many patients are often unable to get a new heart due to a shortage of donor organs. The new therapy, however, has the potential to ease the pressure on the waiting list while also offering patients a better alternative to a donor heart - their own healthy heart.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF), which supported the research, stressed that the technique was only suitable for certain patients.
"It could help some who develop severe heart failure as a result of a disease that weakens their heart muscle, but not those with the more common coronary heart disease, which damages the heart as a result of a lack of blood supply," explained Peter Weissberg, medical director of the BHF.
He added: "The study raises several important questions which will need answering in future clinical studies - we need to know exactly what part of this treatment regimen is responsible for the recovery of heart function, and which patients can benefit from it."