About 5.8 million Americans have heart failure - a condition that occurs when the heart can no longer pump enough blood to meet the body's needs.
Now, researchers say a special type of stem cell may be the key to repairing these hearts.
Lou Baxter has the story. In today's Health Report:
Golf has always been a big part of Ron Signorellis life.
Ron says: "Started when I was 10."
But Ron's congestive heart failure was keeping him away from his favorite pastime.
Ron, "I was in the hospital over 20 times."
Ron's heart pumped only 15-percent of blood. He needed help fast.
Dr. Timothy D. Henry, Minneapolis Heart Institute, says: "There's a large number of patients out there that are really in this situation where they've gone past what normal medical therapy can do, but yet they're not sick enough or don't qualify for a heart transplant."
Now, a new approach can help patients like Ron. First, doctors extract bone marrow stem cells from the patient. Then, they grow the cells to enhance their healing ability. Those cells are then injected directly into the patients heart.
Dr. Henry, "Our hopes are we improve the quality of their life, as well as the length of their life."
In the first clinical trial, the treatment was safe, repaired damaged heart muscles, and even appeared to reverse some heart failure symptoms. Ron had 12-injections and hasn't been to the hospital since.
Ron, "I certainly feel good. I'm a very active person."
Now, nothing stops his stride.
Ron, "When the weather is nice, I'll play three, four times a week."
I'm Lou Baxter reporting.