Harvard Heart Letter

Stem cells offer promise - not more - for heart disease

Stem cells offer promise — not more — for heart disease

Much as we need a way to fix damaged heart muscle, stem cell therapy isn't just around the corner.

Cardiologists have long thought that damage from a heart attack is permanent, something to be coped with rather than fixed. Some visionaries are aiming to change that, driven by the tantalizing promise of stem cells. They are nudging the notion that humans can regenerate the heart, like a salamander can grow a new tail or leg, away from myth and science fiction toward the doctor's office.

Stem cells are a unique breed of cells with the potential to grow into a variety of different tissues. Some stem cells live in bone marrow, some circulate in the bloodstream, and some even live quietly in the heart. Researchers around the world are trying to figure out how to coax these cells to grow new muscle and blood vessels in damaged or failing hearts.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »