Can Hearts Be Mended?
IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ laboratory mice/ author: Aaron Logan
The answer to that question was thought to be no.
It’s been assumed that heart muscle could not repair itself after birth and that once a heart is damaged by disease such as a heart attack, the cells do not regenerate.
But a new study in mice finds that healthy cells can be coaxed into dividing into healthy tissue.
The research was carried out by Children’s Hospital in Boston and is published in the journal Cell.
The Boston team found the key ingredient is NRG1, a growth factor known as neuregulin 1, which appears to spark the process of cell division.
Researchers found when it was administered to mice with induced heart attacks there was some regeneration of heart muscle and an improvement in the function of the heart.
Writing in the journal, researchers said: "We have identified the major elements of a new approach to promote myocardial regeneration.
The work is an alternative to stem cell research which has not be promising in the regeneration of damaged heart tissue.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said to BBC: "This fascinating study shows, remarkably, that a significant fraction of adult heart cells in mice can be made to replicate and help to repair damaged hearts.
"If the same mechanisms identified by the researchers can be shown to work in the human heart, it opens up real possibilities for new and more efficient ways to treat people with heart disease."
WebMD talked to Dr. Bernhard Kuhn, the study co-author, who says “The hope is that neuroregulin 1 can one day be used to ramp up this process in humans and help damaged hearts, as it seems to do in mice.”
The next step will be to test the growth factor into pigs. #