Adult stem cells could be a new weapon in the fight against America's number one killer: heart disease.
Heart failure occurs when the heart doesn't pump enough blood to the rest of the body, often resulting in death. Many doctors say it's the worst form of heart disease.
Treatments for heart failure have largely been unsatisfactory, but new research by Dr. Roberto Bolli shows adult stem cells could provide some hope.
The chief of cardiology at the University of Louisville just completed an adult stem cell treatment on 16 heart failure patients -- and the study was largely successful.
"It's not hype, it is really hope," he said. "I think that stem cells will likely become a routine part of the treatment of cardiovascular disease in the next few years."
Bolli took cells from a healthy part of the patient and infused them into the patient's heart, causing the regeneration of previously dead heart tissue.
The research is bringing new hope for people with heart failure.
"The University of Louisville received more than 500 new patient inquiries about the treatment," university president James Ramsey said.
Because of the promise of Bolli's work, the National Institutes of Health has awarded a $3.4 million grant for more research at the University of Louisville over the next seven years.
The new funds will help Bolli and his team expand their research to include patients with other types of heart disease.
Other researchers have used adult stem cells to restore vision to patients whose eyes were damaged by chemicals.They have also been used to treat leukemia, lymphoma and other blood diseases, heal broken bones, and create skin grafts.
The progress of adult stem cell treatments has outpaced that of embryonic stem cell treatment, which requires the destruction of a human embryo.
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, compared to adult stem cell research, results from embryonic cells is proving "fruitless."