The human heart tissue is known for its inability to regenerate after injuries. But scientists found that Fstl1, the protein which is usually found in the heart’s epicardium, is able to induce regeneration after several heart attacks.
Scientists say that the protein patch prototype, can already repair the damage that was caused by heart attack.
Contrary to general preconceptions, a lot of people survive heart attacks, although the incidents usually leave lasting damage to the heart’s muscle and tissue. Generally, this lasting damage has consequences to deal with. Its scars can lead to other after effects, such as inducing heart failure a few years after the initial attack.
Dr. Pilar Ruiz-Lozano, professor at Stanford University, California, said that treatments do not deal with the essential part of the problem, due to this lack of proper treatment many patients lose their heart functions progressively, which might lead to long-term impairment and eventually death.
If the new prototype patch will be proven to be effective, such damage could be prevented. Thanks to the patch, future treatment will be changed, leading to lower doses of medication and to a reduction of lasting damage after an initial heart attack.
The first phase of the study was conducted by an international team of scientists who soaked a patch of collagen in Fstl1. Then they took the patch and stitched it onto the hearts of pigs. The patch successfully encouraged the growth of cells in the affected area. The newly grown cells protected the heart muscle and tissue against scarring. Nearly all of the animal’s hearts returned to normal a few weeks after the procedure.
Researchers were amazed by how fast the hearts healed. In most of the cases it just took two weeks for heart to return to near normal function after the initial stitching. Not only that, but the hearts have grown new blood vessels and new muscle cells. Moreover, the stitched hearts were shown to pump more effectively overall.
The heart rate of a pig which suffered from heart attack dropped from 50% to 30% in the left ventricle. After the patch was implanted, the heart rate restored to a more than decent rate of 40%. But considering that the stitch reduced the scarring as well, the Fstl1 protein’s effects are quite fascinating.
Despite the fact that the very first trials were only conducted on mice and pigs, the positive results in either cases convinced scientists that the patches could be ready to be applied in humans in just a couple of years.
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