A year and a half ago, Michael Jones' failing heart left him so weak he couldn't even climb stairs.

But today, after receiving an infusion of his own cardiac stem cells, the 67-year-old handles stairs with ease, works his southeastern Jefferson County land on his tractor, indulges his love of woodworking and is making plans to begin jogging.

"I feel truly well," Jones said. "It's awesome. They're using the body to actually heal itself."

Jones is one of several part patients suffering with heart failure who have benefited from a University of Louisville stem cell study that was the subject of a presentation Monday at an American Heart Association session in Chicago.

Study co-leader Dr. Roberto Bolli from U of L described initial results of ongoing research using cardiac stem cells to heal hearts. His partner in the study is Dr. Piero Anversa of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Four months after being given stem cells, Bolli said, nine patients showed an average of 9% improvement in left ventricular function — how well the heart pumps blood to the rest of the body and an indication of how well the heart is working.