Povsic concurred that much larger studies are needed. "The next step is showing it really helps patients in some kind of meaningful way, by either preventing death, healing them or making them feel better."
It's unclear what the cost will be, Povsic added. "What society is going to be willing to pay for this is going to be based on how much good it ends up doing. If they truly regenerate a heart and prevent a heart transplant, that would save a lot money."
Marban, who invented the stem cell treatment, said the while it would not replace bypass surgery or angioplasty, "it might be useful in treating 'irreversible' injury that may persist after those procedures."
As a rough estimate, he said that if larger, phase 2 trials were successful, the treatment might be available to the general public by about 2016.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute describes current heart attack treatment.
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