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Finished heart switches stem cells off
Date:7/12/2012

This press release is available in German.

It is not unusual for babies to be born with congenital heart defects. This is because the development of the heart in the embryo is a process which is not only extremely complex, but also error-prone. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim have now identified a key molecule that plays a central role in regulating the function of stem cells in the heart. As a result, not only could congenital heart defects be avoided in future, but new ways of stimulating the regeneration of damaged hearts in adults may be opened up.

It's a long road from a cluster of cells to a finished heart. Cell division transforms what starts out as a collection of only a few cardiac stem cells into an ever-larger structure from which the various parts of the heart, such as ventricles, atria, valves and coronary vessels, develop. This involves the stem and precursor cells undergoing a complex process which, in addition to tightly regulated cell division, also includes cell migration, differentiation and specialisation. Once the heart is complete, the stem cells are finally switched off.

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim have now discovered how major parts of this development process are regulated. Their search initially focused on finding binding partners for transcription factor Isl1. Isl1 is characteristic of a specific group of cardiac stem cells which are consequently also known as Isl1+ cells. During their search, the researchers came across Ajuba, a transcription factor from the group of LIM proteins. "We then took a closer a look at the interaction between these two molecules and came to the conclusion that Ajuba must be an important switch", says Gergana Dobreva, head of the "Origin of Cardiac Cell Lineages" Research Grou
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Contact: Dr. Matthias Heil
matthias.heil@mpi-bn.mpg.de
49-603-270-51705
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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