Healing a broken heart.

After a heart attack, the muscle cells (cardiomyocytes, the red cells above) of the heart are usually damaged beyond repair. This is because they have been starved of blood from blockages in vessels providing them with oxygen. One of the major obstacles in heart attack recovery is overcoming this cardiac cell damage, and repairing it if possible.

A team at University College London has found a way to switch on naturally occurring cardiac stem cells, stimulating them to produce new heart tissue, by using a protein called Tß4. Usually, adult hearts have a hard time switching on their cardiac stem cells to repair damage. This looks to bypass that switch and allow even old hearts to grow new tissue.

Doctors hope that perhaps this protein, if injected within hours of a heart attack, could change the way they are treated.

(via Nature News, image via arboreous on Flickr)


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