California – The Stanford University School of Medicine found a method that could regenerate dead heart-muscle cells after heart attacks. The researchers found a missing protein from harmed epicardial tissue following heart attacks in humans called “Fstl1” and suggested its reintroduction. The paper was published on September 16 in Nature International weekly journal of science

The protein Fstl1, is secreted by the epicardium, as a growth factor for cardiac muscle cells. The researchers found that the protein began the proliferation of cardiac muscle cells in petri dishes.

Dr. Pilar Ruiz-Lozano, associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, and lead author, reportedly explained that when animals have heart attacks, some cells termed “cardiomyocytes” or cardiac muscle cells, instantly die because of a deficit in the blood flow. She suggested that the replacement from those lost cardiac cells was necessary for the organ to entirely recover.

Credit: MetaHealthReport

How did they do it?

Ruiz-Lozano, along with her scientists team, tested their theory by reintroducing the missing protein to a mice and a pig that had previously suffered from heart attacks. The researchers aimed to recover the poor condition of the epicardial tissue of both animals. In order to achieve this, they sutured a bioengineered patch full with Fstl1 protein directly to the ruined tissue.

Furthermore, the patches contained no cells, but were specifically made of the main structural protein in the extracellular space named ‘collagen’. With the time, the collagen protein is absorbed into the organ. Fortunately, in a period of two to four weeks the heart muscle cells began to engender and progressively the animals recovered their heart function.

Stanford scientists are very confident about the fact that this patches and their particular elasticity, is essential to providing a hospitable environment for muscle growth, not only scar tissues but also blood vessels regenerated as well.

“Many were so sick prior to getting the patch that they would have been candidates for heart transplantation. The hope is that a similar procedure could eventually be used in human heart-attack patients  who suffer severe heart damage.” the lead author stated.

For a better future

This new discovery is very promising to future cases of heart attacks because it opens the door to a completely revolutionary treatment. Currently, there is no proven effective treatment to reverse the scarring in the myocardial tissue after heart attacks. Ruiz-Lozano said that most survivors from such episode tend to face a long a progressive course of heart failure “with poor quality of life and very high medical costs.”

Heart attacks cause millions of deaths annually worldwide and are predicted to massively increase in the upcoming decades. It is expected that by 2030 it will be tripled. According to the CDC, around 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year.

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Source: Stanford Medicine