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Sep 29, 2009 at 05:20pm IST

IBNLiving: Stem cells technology comes to heart patient's rescue

New Delhi: In a week that the world has marked World Heart Day, in Greece, one man is making a remarkable recovery after a unique surgical procedure. A cardiac patient, Loannis Manolopoulos has been in hospital for four months, gradually becoming weaker. All that changed after his operation at Ahepa University Hospital in Greece.

Manolopoulos said, "If things go well, I have to go to the church to pray for what has happened to me because I believe I have been very lucky to get this device in, and live a normal life"

In a ground breaking operation, surgeons placed a pump into his heart, and then injected six million of his own stem cells into the cardiac muscles so that the damage could be repaired.

Surgeon Dr Kyriakos Anastasiadis said, “Our main goal is to give him the opportunity to have a completely normal life. That means that the device itself will give him quality of life but on the top, the stem cells will give an extra strength to the result of this pump."

The heart pump itself costs 60,000 pounds but the Greek health service paid for the entire operation. British surgeon Professor Stephen Westaby, who headed the surgical team, wants Britain to follow suit.

Dr Stephen Westaby said, "We should start in a few hospitals with ten to twelve patients a year, but I think eventually all hospitals that do heart surgery should be able to use this technology with or without stem cells. I think that there are about 12,000 patients a year in the UK that would benefit from it"

The National Health Service in the UK wants to study the benefits of the procedure but here in Greece, the surgical team feel Loannis is an example of the success of this operation. In fact, he'll be going home soon.