Aussie doctor in heart regrowth triumph

This technology may in the future be used in patients with heart failure, who at present need a transplant to avoid a slow death.

In what the team describes as a world first, embryonic stem cells were used to repair the heart of a large mammal.

Unlike in other stem cell studies, the transferred tissue beats in sync with the host heart, and receives its blood and nutrients in the same way as the original tissue.

"This enables the long-term survival of the tissue," says University of Sydney cardiology lecturer and researcher Dr James Chong, who is lead author of a research report in the journal Nature.

So far, the process has been achieved in monkeys, but the team is optimistic it will be years rather than decades before they can save human lives.

The research is important because, like the brain, the heart is not able to adequately repair itself, Dr Chong says. It's one of the least regenerative organs in the body.