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Turbo-Charging Hormone May Help Regrow The Heart, Animal Study Shows

First Posted: Apr 08, 2015 12:06 AM EDT
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New findings published in the journal Nature Cell Biology show that researchers at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute discovered how to stimulate muscle regrowth in the heart of a mouse, which could be particularly important in looking at new treatments for those who suffer future heart attacks.

Researchers found that up to 45 percent of the muscle cell numbers in the heart could be regenerated with ‘turbo-charging' a hormone that was linked to the coordinate cell growth.

"Unlike blood, hair or skin cells, which can renew themselves throughout life, cell division in the heart virtually comes to a standstill shortly after birth, which means the heart can't fully regenerate if it is damaged later in life," the researchers noted, in a news release. "Previous studies have demonstrated that it is possible to coax heart muscle cells to proliferate again, but only at very trivial levels. What the research team has been able to do is boost heart muscle cell numbers by as much as 45% after a heart attack."

Researchers specifically focused on a hormone called ‘neuregulin' in the heart that switches the pathway of the turbo charge. They found that heart muscle cells continued to divide in both the adolescent and adult periods, stimulating the neuregulin pathway during a heart attack and leading to the replacement of lost muscle.

"This big achievement will focus the attention of the field on heart muscle cell replacement as a therapeutic option for ischemic heart disease," they concluded. "The dream is that one day we will be able to regenerate damaged heart tissue, much like a salamander can regrow a new limb if it is bitten off by a predator. Just imagine if the heart could learn to regrow and heal itself. That would be the ultimate prize."

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