Surgeons have carried out trials involving an artificial pump that could help to rejuvenate dying hearts.
Researchers at the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospital revealed that three quarters of patients made a recovery, with all but one being free from heart disease after five years.
Patients were fitted with an artificial heart which pumps blood around the body, allowing their own heart to rest.
In addition, they received two drugs – one to reduce the size of the heart, which swells during heart failure, and another to help regenerate heart muscle.
Surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub, commented: "The study highlights the fact that 'end-stage' heart failure can be reversed and that the heart has the capacity to regenerate itself."
Around 750,000 British people are affected by heart failure, either as a result of a heart attack or conditions such as cardiomyopathy.
Until now, heart transplants have been the primary treatment for severe heart failure, but there is a limited supply of organs as well as the possibility of rejection.
Emma Birks, lead researcher and cardiology consultant at the hospital, told the Times that the combined therapy could help to ease the pressure on the transplant waiting list and give patients the chance to regain "their own, healthy heart".
© Adfero Ltd
Heart surgery news : 3/11/2006