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Diseased hearts to heal themselves in future
Date:11/11/2011

This press release is available in German.

Cellular reversion processes arise in diseases of the heart muscle, for example myocardial infarction and cardiomyopathy, which limit the fatal consequences for the organ. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim and the Schchtermann Klinik in Bad Rothenfelde have identified a protein which fulfils a central task in this reversion process by stimulating the regression of individual heart muscle cells into their precursor cells. It is now planned to improve the self-healing powers of the heart with the help of this protein.

In order to regenerate damaged heart muscle as caused by a heart attack, for example, the damaged muscle cells must be replaced by new ones. The number of cells to be replaced may be considerable, depending on the extent of the damage caused. Simpler vertebrates like the salamander adopt a strategy whereby surviving healthy heart muscle cells regress into an embryonic state. This process, which is known as dedifferentiation, produces cells which contain a series of stem cell markers and re-attain their cell division activity. Thus, new cells are produced which convert, in turn, into heart muscle cells. The cardiac function is then restored through the remodelling of the muscle tissue.

An optimised repair mechanism of this kind does not exist in humans. Although heart stem cells were discovered some time ago, exactly how and to what extent they play a role in cardiac repair is a matter of dispute. It has only been known for a few years that processes comparable to those found in the salamander even exist in mammals.

Thomas Braun's research group at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim has now discovered the molecule responsible for controlling this dedifferentiation of heart muscle cells in mammals
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Contact: Professor Thomas Braun
thomas.braun@mpi-bn.mpg.de
49-603-270-51102
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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