University of Houston's biomedical scientist Robert Schwartz has devised a method for turning ordinary human skin cells into heart cells.
The cells developed are similar to embryonic stem cells and ultimately can be made into early-stage heart cells derived from a patient's own skin.
These then could be implanted and grown into fully developed beating heart cells, reversing the damage caused by previous heart attacks.
These new cells would replace the damaged cardiac tissue that weakens the heart's ability to pump, develops into scar tissue and causes arrhythmias.
Early clinical trials using these reprogrammed cells on actual heart patients could begin within one or two years.
Although Schwartz is not the first scientist to turn adult cells into such stem cells, his improved method could pave the way for breakthroughs in other diseases.
Schwartz's method requires fewer steps and yields more stem cells.
Armed with an effective way to make induced stem cells from a patient's own skin, scientists can then begin the work of growing all kinds of human cells, according to a University of Houston press release.