The research, published in the journal Nature, found that transplanting genetically engineered muscle cells into the hearts of mice who had been induced to have heart attacks reduced the risk of a condition called ventricular tachycardia.
Dr Tim Chico, MRC Centre for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics, University of Sheffield, said:
“Following a heart attack, many patients suffer potentially lethal rhythm disturbance called ventricular tachycardia (VT). The only treatment available for this is to implant a defibrillator under the skin. This is expensive and very unpleasant as it gives a painful electric shock if the patient develops VT.
“The study in Nature shows that after a heart attach in mice, treatment with specially engineered cells can reduce this potentially lethal rhythm disturbance.
“This was a very preliminary study in mice. If it can be repeated in humans it would be a breakthrough in the treatment of patients with heart disease and could save thousands of lives. However, many other studies will be needed to assess whether it is possible and effective in patients.”