Scientists have used stem cells derived from waistline fat tissue to help recovery from a heart attack. After they were injected into the hearts of patients, the cells reduced damage, increased blood flow and improved the organs' pumping ability.
Eleven men and three women who had suffered recent heart attacks took part in the pioneering pilot study.
Ten patients were treated with stem cells, while four received a placebo infusion.
Liposuction - a cosmetic procedure used to reduce people's waistlines - was used to remove up to 250 cubic centimetres of fat from the patients' bellies.
From each sample, the researchers isolated and extracted 20 million adult stem cells - regenerative cells with the potential to become more than one kind of tissue.
Six months later, members of the treated group showed a 3.5 per cent improvement in heart perfusion, the heart's ability to receive oxygenated blood.
Lead researcher Dr Eric Duckers, from Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, said: "The study suggests that these cells can be safely obtained and infused inside the hearts of patients following an acute heart attack."