Damaged heart? Grow around it!

Researchers are racing to heal injured hearts by using stem cells from outside the heart, and maybe even ones inside it.

An idea that was mere fantasy just a few years ago — growing new tissue to replace damaged or diseased heart muscle — is now one of the hottest areas of on-the-horizon cardiology research. Teams around the world are trying to mend broken hearts by injecting or infusing primitive stem cells or muscle cells into the heart or by rousing the heart to repair itself.

Whether these efforts will pay off is anyone's guess. The researchers must work their way over daunting scientific, technical, and sometimes ethical hurdles. Despite the occasional scientist's overenthusiastic statement that such new therapy will be routinely used in five years, it isn't likely to get beyond clinical trials any time soon.

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