New hope for heart patients

London: A gene injection that can make hearts beat stronger and to even overcome the damage caused by previous heart attacks provides new hope of effectively curing the condition, a study has found.

The injection takes just 12 weeks to start working. Hailed as "the next great thing", the ground-breaking research is ready for testing in humans, a website reported Thursday.

The technique could also cut the need for heart transplants, with diseased hearts being able to mend themselves.

It works by raising levels of a calcium-controlling protein in the diseased heart muscle cell to normal.

A gene called S100A1 makes the protein which is vital for regulating the heart`s contraction.

Research has shown that, in heart failure patients, the protein is massively depleted.

Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia injected the gene into pigs with heart failure.

Twelve weeks later, the protein created by S100A1 had improved their heart function.

Experts said that while past studies have shown similar results in rodents, using it on a large animal, which is closer physically to humans, shows it is likely to be safe to treat people.

"It`s the next great thing in heart failure," a website quoted Walter Koch, director of the centre for translational medicine at the university, as saying.

The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.