A new scientific breakthrough has led to the regeneration of heart cells in mice. The heart cell damaged by heart attacks, previously considered to be permanent damage, were able to regenerate themselves into new heart tissue.
The Brittish Heart Foundation described self-repair as the “holy grail of heart research”, but said that any treatment in humans was years away. The identification of a viable source of stem/progenitor cells that could create the desired response to damaged tissue has long been considered a significant bottleneck in cardiovascular research.
In adults, epicardium-derived progenitor cells line the heart, but have become dormant since the embryonic state of the organism. The researcher found that a chemical called thymosin beta 4, was successful in “waking them [the cells] up”. The benefits to the new treatment includes the avoidance of surgery or transplanting progenitor cells. “The adult epicardial cells which line the muscle of the heart can be activated, move inward and give rise to new heart muscle”, said Professor Paul Riley, from University Collage London.The tests, however, only show an improvement in mice who had the chemical before a heart attack. Professor Riley was still optimistic though; “I could envisage a patient known to be at risk of a heart attack – either because of family history or warning signs spotted by their GP – taking an oral tablet, which would prime their heart so that if they had a heart attack the damage could be repaired.” He believed that this could be available in 10 years.