If doctors can determine how a British girl's heart healed itself, it may lead to new ways to treat cardiac patients.
In 1995, Hannah Clark had a donor heart implanted directly onto her own failing heart. After 10 years, her original heart had healed itself to the point that doctors could remove the donated heart, the Associated Press reported.
Since her donor heart was removed in 2006, the 16-year-old has started playing sports, taken a part-time job, and plans to return to school in the fall. Her case history was published online Tuesday in The Lancet medical journal.
"This just shows that the heart can indeed repair itself given the opportunity," Dr. Douglas Zipes, past president of the American College of Cardiology, told the AP. "The heart apparently has major regenerative powers, and it is now key to find out how they work."
Another expert said Clark's case offers encouragement to both patients and doctors.
"It reminds us that not all heart failure is lethal," Dr. Ileana Pina, a heart failure expert at Case Western Reserve University, told the AP. "Some heart failure patients have a greater chance of recovery than we thought."