Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Can Damage Heart Be Repaired?

It has long been thought that the heart does not have the ability to repair itself. In other words, when cells turn into fully formed adult heart muscle, they will stop dividing, and cannot replace damaged tissue caused by disease or deformity.

For heart attack patients with heart weakness, people with heart failure or heart disease children with congenital heart defects, their damaged heart muscle tissue normally does not regenerate.

However, researchers from the United States have found a way to repair the damage heart. What they discovered is that heart tissue could be re-grown and heart function improved in mice that were injected a growth factor without using stem cells. Such discovery is indeed a potential breakthrough for human cardiac care.

As published in the July 24, 2009 issue of journal Cell, the researchers from the Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School injected a substance known as neuregulin1 (NRG1), which is a protein, into the peritoneal cavity of live mice after a heart attack.

The injection was done once daily for a period of 12 weeks. It was found that heart regeneration was increase and pumping function (ejection fraction, assessed on echocardiograms) was improved when comparing to untreated control group.

NRG1 is one of the 4 proteins in the neuregulin family that acts on the EGFR family of receptors. It is essential for the normal development of the nervous system and the heart.

According to the researchers, this is the first regenerative therapy that may be applicable in a systemic way. In principle, human treatment could eventually be carried out with daily infusions of NRG1 at a clinic over a period of weeks.

Nevertheless, further research is still necessary to ensure such therapy is safe before it could be tested to human patients.

With many studies focusing on stem cells, the new finding does suggest that stem cells are not required and that stimulating differentiated cardiomyocytes to proliferate may just be a viable alternative too.


  1. Wow, quite the findings. This is a huge research development in heart health. I'm surprised and impressed that the findings suggest that stem cells are not required. I work for icyou is a user-generated website for health care videos and the leader in health videos online. Really enjoyed reading your post. I encourage you to check out the site for health news.

  2. It’s like a really surprising blog for any one who is suffering from heart disease. But the rate at which damage occurs to the heart cells are far beyond their recovery cycle. So, though it might not be that helpful in recovery, but still for youngsters, it can be like a boon. Isn’t it natural for us to believe we are healthy and not suffering from any disease? I had a similar thought process until my physician asked me to get a heart scan done after he found that my basic cardiograms were not perfect. I discovered that there were calcium deposits in my coronary arteries and I was at a serious risk of a heart attack. I was shocked and went ahead with the Cardiologist's suggestion of an advanced diagnostic scan. Though it’s always tough to undergo such experiences, I was not at any kind of discomfort at the advanced heart scan facility. I am not an expert in medical appliance and machines but could feel that the equipment was world-class and I was in safe hands. That feeling is really very important for me and that’s how it actually went on. The facilities for Full Body Scan were as good as they can get.