Up until birth, the fetal heart manages to improve the ratio of healthy cells to defective cells from the original 50:50 ratio. The defective cells then only comprise ten percent of the entire heart volume. That is possible because the healthy myocardial cells divide much more frequently than the defective cells. Their percentage in the heart increases so that, at the time of birth, the ratio is large enough to allow the heart of the newborn mouse to beat normally. "But even for a while after birth, the heart is capable of compensatory growth of healthy cardiac cells," Dr. Drenckhahn explained.
Later the heart loses this ability. Thus, after approximately one year, some of the mice (13 percent) died of myocardial insufficiency and almost half developed arrhythmia. Why only some of the mice develop heart problems is still unclear. The scientists, therefore, want to inactivate the gene in adult mice as well in order to investigate its influence.
Furthermore, they want to identify the embryonic/fetal signal substances that stimulate healthy cells to proliferate and inhibit diseased cells. The scientists hope that, in the future, these signal substances may help stimulate the body's own repair mechanisms of the heart, for example after a heart attack or in the case of heart insufficiency.
|Contact: Barbara Bachtler|
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres