Human arteries contain cells that can function as cardiac stem cells to produce new heart muscle tissue, Vanderbilt University investigators have discovered.
The findings, published in the journal Cell Reports
, could lead to new strategies for repairing the heart after a heart attack, Medical Xpress
"People thought that the same heart you had as a young child, you had as an old man or woman as well," said researcher Antonis Hatzopoulos, an associate professor of Medicine and Cell and Developmental Biology.
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But the new study demonstrates that new heart stem cells are generated at a low rate, suggesting the presence of cardiac stem cells in endothelial cells that line blood vessels.
Using sophisticated technologies to track cells in mice, the Vanderbilt team found they have the potential to generate new heart muscle cells.
The new understanding could lead to new strategies for producing new heart muscle after a heart attack, during aging, or in disease conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, Hatzopoulos said.
"If we can understand the molecular mechanisms that regulate the fate switch that happens after injury, perhaps we can use some sort of chemical or drug to restore regeneration and make muscle instead of scar," he said. "We think there is an opportunity here to improve the way we treat people who come into the clinic after myocardial infarction."
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