Trials have been completed in Greece and are planned in UK and the US this year and next for a stem cell therapy of heart muscle that reverses the scarring induced by heart disease.
This is the first time scarring has been shown to be reversible. It could herald an end to transplants and lead to a treatment for heart failure within three to five years.
Professor Westaby said: "This would be the biggest breakthrough since the first transplants three decades ago."
Professor Westaby has been working on the technique for more than a decade and is carrying out the study with Professor Kim Fox, head of the National Heart and Lung Institute, at Imperial College London.
The implanted stem cells were created by medical outfit Celixir, co-founded by Nobel laureate Professor Martin Evans, the first scientist to culture mice embryonic stem cells in a laboratory.
Professor Westaby was inspired to work on the breakthrough in 1999 after a four-month-old baby girl's heart healed itself after he carried out a major life-saving operation.
Kirsty Collier, from Swindon, was dying of a serious and rare heart defect. In a last ditch effort Professor Westaby cut away a third of her badly damaged heart.
Surprisingly it began to beat. Fourteen years later a scan has shown that the heart had healed itself.
Now Kirsty, 18, has a normal one. Professor Westaby said: "She was essentially dead and was only resurrected by what I regarded at the time as a completely bizarre operation.
"The fact there was no sign of heart damage told me there were foetal stem cells in babies' hearts that could remove scarring of heart muscle. That never happens in adults.
"It's all down to the clues we got from Kirsty's operation."
I do enjoy our running discussion about autonomous vehicles. So many of our contretempses are based on opinion and abstract theory, but on this I enjoy being 100% right and the rest of you being 100% wrong. It feels good.
But, in fairness, I am sitting on some inculpatory information. This Sunday will see a five-star, glowing Review Corner for Tim Harford's Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives. It is a brilliant book that affects music, art, politics, business, technology, and personal lifestyle choices.
Don't wait for Review Corner: buy it or at least listen to Russ Roberts's EconTalk podcast with the author.
I'll have a lot to say and might miss "Chapter Seven: Flight 447 and the Jennifer Unit: When Human Messiness Protects Us from Computerized Disaster."
Recall that Earl Wiener said, "Digital devices tune out small errors while creating opportunities for large errors." 21 In the case of autopilots and autonomous vehicles, we might add that it's because digital devices tidily tune out small errors that they create the opportunities for large ones. Deprived of any awkward feedback, any modest challenges that might allow us to maintain our skills, when the crisis arrives we find ourselves lamentably unprepared.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb [Review Corner] would appreciate the fragility element. I don't think it substantively undercuts the argument for autonomous vehicles, but it is a concern that the computer -- as in Flight 447 -- does the easy stuff and then hands it off when things get bad. That is a legitimate concern: "oh we're all gonna die, you better take over."
UPDATE: I meant to include one more excerpt:
With fly-by-wire, it's much easier to assess whether the trade-off is worthwhile. Until the late 1970s, one could reliably expect at least twenty-five fatal commercial plane crashes a year. In 2009, Air France 447 was one of just eight crashes, a safety record. The cost-benefit analysis seems clear: freakish accidents like Flight 447 are a price worth paying, as the steady silicon hand of the computer has prevented many others.
Still, one cannot help but wonder if there is a way to combine the adaptability, judgment, and tacit knowledge of humans with the reliability of computers, reducing the accident rate even further.
Harford, Tim. Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives (pp. 198-199). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
What a relief that the latest "most important election in our lifetime" is over and we can get back to important debates, like the one over self-driving cars.
I don't know the maker but the operator is identified as "Uber." Right there at the ten second mark, Uber's self-driving Volvo wagon drives right through an intersection against a red light that a human operated car had already stopped for. Barely missing a pedestrian!
In its defense, Uber said the incident resulted from "human error." Rilly?
According to Uber, the cars aren't yet ready to be hit the streets without someone monitoring them, meaning someone from the company was likely behind the wheel. A statement issued by Uber Wednesday afternoon attributed the red-light being run in the video to an error by the person monitoring the car.
"This incident was due to human error," the statement read. "This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers. This vehicle was not part of the pilot and was not carrying customers. The driver involved has been suspended while we continue to investigate."
But, if self-driving Ubers are safer, why do they need a human monitoring them from behind the wheel in the first place? Perhaps that human driver isn't the only entity who warrants suspension.