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Transforming scar tissue into beating hearts: The next instalment
Date:4/1/2012

port to the myocytes. "When heart muscle cells become injured and die following an MI, patients have the major problem that these cells have little or no capacity for regeneration," explained Srivastava. Part of the process of remodelling that occurs following the injury is that fibroblast cells migrate to the site and create the scar.

"The process at first can be considered beneficial since without fibroblasts adding structural support damaged hearts would rupture. But later difficulties arise when the fibrotic scar doesn't contract like the muscle it has replaced. Reduced global contractility means the heart has to work much harder, and the extra stress can ultimately lead to heart failure and even death," said Srivastava.

One of the Holy Grails of cardiovascular research has been to replace these lost myocytes and return functionality to the heart. Some of the first approaches to be investigated were the introduction of stem or progenitor cells to the sites of injury.

"But many hurdles have been encountered including getting cells to integrate with neighbouring cells in the heart, and there have been concerns that residual "rogue" cells could persist with the potential to keep dividing and give rise to tumours," said Srivastava. "Harnessing the vast reservoir of fibroblasts already present in the heart, we felt, could overcome many of these issues. They've the big advantage they're already present in the organ and closely integrated with neighbouring cells."

In the address Srivastava, a paediatric cardiologist, explained how he had first got ahead of the game by "leveraging" knowledge from his work in embryo hearts. Over the past 15 years the focus of Srivastava's lab has been to identify genetic factors responsible for the formation of embryonic hearts.

From this work the team identified 14 key genes that they felt were the major "on/off" switches for cardiac genetic programming. When the genes were "knocked o
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Contact: ESC Press Office
press@escardio.org
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European Society of Cardiology
Source:Eurekalert

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