The heart is not a very regenerative organ in mammals, its cells comparatively reluctant to multiply to make up losses or repair injuries – and mammals are a good deal less regenerative than many other species. Zebrafish can regenerate entire missing sections of the heart to completely restore normal function without scarring, for example. Is it possible for the biochemistry of mammals to be adjusted so as to approach this feat? If so, this could make a sizable difference to the trajectory of heart disease and heart failure in later life, even though it doesn’t address the root causes of age-related cardiovascular disease. Researchers here report on an important step in this direction, inducing replication in heart muscle cells, and showing that their approach results in significant regeneration in rodents.
In the embryo, human heart cells can divide and multiply, allowing the heart to grow and develop. The problem is that, right after birth, cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells) lose their ability to divide. The same is true for many other human cells, including those of the brain, spinal cord, and pancreas. “If we could find a way to get these cells to divide again,
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