For a long time it has been believed that heart damage is irreversible. However, new research conducted at Children's Hospital Boston is revealing that heart muscle can be regenerated. This research was conducted on mice, not on humans, but the results are promising. The investigators injected the growth factor neuregulin 1 cirectly into their mice subjects. Result: the injections actually stimulated "the growth of new heart muscle cells," Examiner.com reports.
The hope is that neuroregulin1 can one day be used to ramp up this process in humans and help heal damaged hearts, as it seems to do in mice, study co-author Bernhard Kuhn, MD, tells WebMD.
"Contemporary heart failure treatment is directed at making the remaining cardiomyocytes function better, and improvements in outcomes are harder and harder to achieve because these therapies have become so good," he says. "But despite this, heart failure is still a fatal disease. Therapies that replace lost heart muscle cells have the potential to greatly advance the field," WebMD reports.
Meanwhile the researchers said it was not clear if NRG1 is directly responsible for the natural repair process - but their findings show it can clearly enhance it.
Writing in the journal, they said: "We have identified the major elements of a new approach to promote myocardial regeneration.
"Many efforts and important advances have been made toward the goal of developing stem-cell based strategies to regenerate damaged tissues in the heart as well as in other organs.
"The work presented here suggests that stimulating differentiated cardiomyocytes to proliferate may be a viable alternative."
The next stage will be to test the therapy in pigs, which have more in common with humans than rodents do, BBC News reports.