Stem cells are identified as real culprit behind heart attacks after case of mistaken identity that could …

Scientists previously thought heart attacks and strokes were caused by smooth muscle cells Stem cells multiply and caused arteries to harden Heart attacks affect 90,000 and strokes 150,000 in Britain every year

By Emma Reynolds

PUBLISHED: 11:17 EST, 6 June 2012 | UPDATED: 11:17 EST, 6 June 2012

The real culprit behind heart attacks and strokes is stem cells, researchers have claimed in a landmark study that could revolutionise treatment.

Until now, scientists thought vascular health problems were triggered by smooth muscle cells.

Now a team from the University of California in Berkeley have found a previously unknown stem cell, which causes the arteries to harden when it multiplies.

Real hope: The cells can multiply and cause arteries to harden, blocking the blood's route to the heart or brain

The groundbreaking work is set to completely change how heart attacks and strokes are treated, dramatically cutting the number of deaths, according the study published today in the journal Nature Communications.

Heart attacks are the most common reason for people to need emergency treatment. Around 90,000 people in Britain have one each year - of whom around a third will die as a result.

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