Australian scientists say they've made a breakthrough that could give hope to heart-attack patients.
Researchers at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute have found a new way to potentially regenerate dead heart tissue.
For mother-of-one Margaret Kilby, that could mean a new frontier of discovery and treatment.
The 47-year-old has had four separate heart attacks, with her first at 35 years old.
"I honestly truly thought that that was my last breath," she said.
Her heart now functions at 60 per cent capacity due to her heart being deprived of oxygen with every attack. That has left part of the muscle scarred for life.
"That was something that was very much news to me," Ms Kilby said.
"That there are areas of the heart muscle that just won’t regenerate."
Researchers at the Victor Chang Institute and their colleagues at the Weizmann Institute in Israel said the assumption that nothing could be done to repair a damaged heart may no longer be true.
"This is a project that’s aimed towards realising the dream of cardiac regeneration," said the Institute’s Professor, Richard Harvey.
While some cells, such as blood or skin can renew themselves through life, heart cells stop dividing shortly after birth. This means once heart cells are damaged they are damaged forever.
But Professor Harvey and his colleagues have shown the damage could potentially be reversed.
The researchers focused on a particular hormone and then turbo-charged its receptor, finding that the heart cells then proliferated, boosting cell numbers by up to 45 per cent.
"Not only for ourselves but for future generations this is just unreal news, it’s fantastic news," Ms Kilby said.
Professor Harvey said the discovery is a strong step forward for the cardiac area.