Cell Therapy's heart tissue regeneration hope

By Steffan Messenger
BBC Wales

image captionThe company's study shows early signs of heart tissue regeneration

Research by a team of scientists in Wales has shown early signs of being able to regenerate damaged heart tissue.

By experimenting at Cardiff and Swansea university laboratories, Cell Therapy hopes to develop new treatments for heart failure over the next five years.

Signs from early stem cell trials "look very positive", it said.

Ex-First Minister Rhodri Morgan, a company director, said it could bring a cure for incurable heart disease.

The research team was co-founded by Nobel prize-winning scientist Sir Martin Evans, who first isolated and grew embryonic stem cells in the 1980s.

Cell Therapy Limited's executive director Ajan Reginald told BBC Wales: "We've identified what we think is a very potent type of stem cell which is heart specific.

'Very scary'

"And what our therapy does is to produce more of those so that you have a large number of those cells to help you to regenerate the part of the heart that is damaged.

"We've finished our first clinical trial which was focused on safety. The interim analysis looks very positive and very fortunately we've also seen some benefit - the study does show some signs of early regeneration."

One of the company's directors, former first minister Rhodri Morgan has a very personal history with heart disease.

In July 2007, weeks after a gruelling assembly election campaign, Mr Morgan suffered a heart attack.

Talks about a coalition cabinet were put on hold as the then first minister had "stents" inserted into two blocked arteries.

"It was very scary," Mr Morgan told BBC Wales, "in your heart of hearts you know - this is the big one."

media captionRhodri Morgan says the research brings hopes of an incurable heart disease cure

Welsh label

"But I was very lucky because there was no permanent damage to my heart."

Almost exactly 50 years earlier Mr Morgan had seen his father go through the same experience.

"I'll always remember helping the ambulance man carry my father down the stairs," he said.

"Heart disease has always been up there consciously for my brother and myself."

Mr Morgan's involvement with Cell Therapy is his first role in the private sector.

He said he wants to strengthen the company's Welsh roots.

"If we can bring it off this would represent a cure for people with incurable heart disease.

"That's a tremendous advantage but the fact that it would have a Welsh label on it as well would be tremendous for Wales."

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