A pill that could promote heart rejuvenation and reduce long-term damage in the wake of a heart attack could be just a decade away, researchers have said.

In a study published in the journal Nature, researchers at the University College London in the UK found that the thymosin beta 4 protein can reawaken dormant stem cells in the hearts of adults.

Experiments conducted in mice showed that the protein improved heart performance by as much as 25%, and the researchers hope to begin human trials in next few years.

Heart failure has a worse survival rate than many cancers, with 40% of those affected dying within a year of diagnosis.

Research leader professor Paul Riley believes that the drug, taken in collaboration with a statin, could prime the heart for potential damage.