A heart attack is not something that your body will treat lightly. Even if you did manage to survive such an experience and get past the trauma that it leaves behind, parts of your heart remain affected and will never become active again. This is exactly what happens to your cardiac muscle cells. You have no blood flow, so they die and leave you with “less heart” which could take care of you.
The good news is that Stanford University researchers might have found a way around this by administering a specific protein which can help heart cells “become alive again”. It is a regenerative process which will re-enable heart muscle cells. It looks very promising and the next step in research is to make sure that the protein works appropriately on humans as well.
The study can be found in Wednesday’s Nature journal. Ruiz-Lozano, the head author of the research, and her peers discovered that a protein named Fstl1 helped the regeneration of heart muscle cells, but the protein was only tested on pigs and mice. When the clinical trial subject was tackled, there was a declaration which mentioned that it could begin in early 2017.
The discovery could not have been made without the help of the zebrafish. The zebrafish presets a unique trait that is called epicardium. This Epicardium is a layer located beneath the pericardium, which is covering the heart, and it has a decisive role in heart regeneration after a heart attack. Fstl1 was found in these animals and it lead to the conclusion that this protein is very good for the heart.
Researchers then wanted to see how animals affected by a heart attack would develop after having been given Fstl1, so they created a bioengineered patch which they later administered only to mice and pigs’ affected tissue. Acellular collagen was introduced in the patch and it was ideal simply because an immunosuppressant is not required to be administered.
The pigs and mice responded positively and absorbed the collagen in the organ. Moreover, the protein worked and the animals’ hearts showed improvements. The regeneration was also quite fast as the cells came back to life within two to four weeks after having received the patch.
If this protein were to work for humans as well, it would mean that medicine has made yet another groundbreaking discovery. People whose hearts remained damaged by heart attacks for so many years can finally low forward to fixing what is broken.
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