After an attack scar tissue forms and it tends to be thinner and weaker than the original. The left ventricle also becomes much bigger and as a result the heart has to work harder to function. This can trigger future heart failure.
The gel is made from ordinary brown seaweed and can be injected into the heart with a catheter fed through a vein in the groin.
When injected into the area of the heart where the tissue has been damaged by an attack, the gel solidifies. This allows a thick layer of scar tissue to grow, helping the heart to continue working normally.
In lab experiments, 90 per cent of animals injected with the gel survived a heart attack compared to just 40 per cent that received no treatment at all.
Clinical trials have started in Germany, Belgium and Israel on people who have suffered a major heart attack. According to the researchers, if the trials prove successful, the substance could hit the markets by the year 2011.