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'I healed my own heart with stem cells'

By Ian Rosenberg for CNN

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Ian Rosenberg: "This treatment is truly amazing."

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Two years ago Ian Rosenberg, from London, was told he had two and a half months to live. The 59-year-old had pioneering stem cell treatment which enabled his heart to repair damaged tissue.

I used to be incredibly active. I climbed mountains, skied and played golf. Then when I was 38, I had a heart attack, which dramatically changed my life. Two years later, in 1987, I had surgery to remove some of the scar tissue from my heart. After my heart attack, and even after the scars were removed, I became increasingly unwell and by 2003, I couldn't even walk up two steps.

I'd had implantable defibrillators in my chest for nine years and every time they went off, they were weakening my heart even further. Plus, the medication I was taking was losing its punch. It was only when I fainted one day they eventually found my heart was in such bad shape that they told me I had only two and a half months to live. My heart was giving up and it needed to be strengthened.

I had heard about stem cells but most or all of the cardiologists I met didn't know anything about it. I had read about one who lived in Monte Carlo. I made enquires and was told that while the treatment wasn't light years away, it was still being tested.

In the end, I said, "Why don't you test it on me," and they agreed. I've had stem cell treatment three times since July 2003. I have it at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Hospital in Frankfurt -- it's not a swanky hospital but it is Frankfurt's biggest teaching hospital.

After the first treatment, I started to get better immediately. They take injections from the bone marrow in my hipbone. When they have enough cells they take it to a lab for "witchcraft," as I call it. I don't really know what they do there but two hours later I have a treatment that is a bit like an angiogram. Instead of using a stent, though, they inject the cells into the arteries in my heart.

Basically, the heart regrows the dead tissue. Even with so much scarring, my heart is pretty good now. I can go cruising, travel to America where I spend about six months of the year and walk a lot further than previously. I still can't play 18 holes of golf; I do nine instead now.

Quite a few people have had the treatment. You would be amazed at some of the stories. It is is truly amazing. When I came back from Germany, I thought people in the UK should be able to have the same treatment in their own country, so I started the Heart Cells Foundation. It may not be the charity of the moment but heart disease kills people and we need to raise awareness about it.

Doctors at Barts and The London NHS Trust have launched the UK's first large-scale clinical trial using the same treatment Ian Rosenberg had in Germany. For more information, e-mail laura.roberts@bartsandthelondon.nhs.uk.

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