Washington: Researchers have discovered a new way to dramatically improve heart repair.
The future goal is to use this knowledge to combat human cardiovascular disease by improving repair after a heart attack.
Professor James Martin led the team who uncovered the signalling pathway, called the Hippo pathway, which normally blocks heart repair in adult mice following injury.
When the researchers removed certain signals, the hearts were able to regenerate. Martin's team showed that this was because the specialized heart cells, called cardiomyocytes, were able to proliferate much better: a feat that is essentially lost in normal injured hearts.
Martin said that the heart is very poor at repairing itself after various types of injury including the most common injury, the myocardial infarct.
Heart regeneration is possible during embryonic development, and even in newborn mice, but this ability is lost during adulthood.
In previous work, published in Science, Martin's team identified a signaling pathway responsible for cardiomyocyte proliferation during development. Now they find that this same pathway controls proliferation and therefore regeneration in the adult heart too.
The research has been published in the journal Development.