Statement on media coverage of recent Lancet paper on stem cell treatment

6 April 2016

Following the recent publication of a paper in the Lancet about stem cell treatment for patients with heart failure, it was reported in the press that this treatment had potential be an alternative to transplant.

 Paul Murphy, acting associate medical director for organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant said:

“Regenerative medicine is a very exciting area of clinical research that we are actively involved in too. Whilst this research offers hope for potential new medical treatments, any advances that impact patients are likely to be much further in the future. Much more research is needed.

 “The reality is that currently a heart transplant is often the only life-saving treatment left available for people with heart failure and other life-threatening heart conditions, especially when other interventions have not provided improvement in heart function.  But patients in need of a heart transplant entirely depend on people donating their organs after death and children need an organ from a donor of a similar size, which means that we need parents to donate when dealing with the tragic death of their own child to save someone else’s.

 “There are 244 people across the UK on the waiting list for a heart transplant. The waiting list is just the tip of the iceberg as many more patients could benefit from a heart transplant if more organs were available. Sadly, due to a shortage of donors, on average three people die every day across the UK in need of an organ transplant and in the last 10 years, 292 patients have died waiting for a heart transplant.

“We urgently need more people to donate their organs so please make a decision to donate, join the NHS Organ Donor Register online at and tell your family you want to be a donor.”

Further background information for release:

• Risk adjusted one year patient survival rates currently stand at 80% and five year survival rates at 66% for an adult undergoing a first heart transplant in the UK.

• NHSBT is an active member of the UK’s Regenerative Medicine and Immunotherapy community with strong collaborations with academic groups, SMEs and clinical transplant teams.  We provide services to support the entire development pathway for new cell therapies, from discovery research to translation and clinical application, and seek to increase the   range of treatments available for a wide range of diseases.