Discovery Speeds Creation of Healthy Heart Cells From Scar Tissue

THURSDAY, Nov. 10, 2016 (HealthDay News) — A new discovery in mice may boost efforts to find an effective treatment for heart failure in humans, researchers say.

Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco tested an estimated 5,500 chemicals and identified two that help transform scar tissue in the heart into healthy, beating heart muscle.

When heart muscle is damaged, the body can’t repair dead or injured heart cells. The researchers investigated cellular reprogramming (turning one type of adult cell into another) as a way to regenerate heart muscle cells.

In experiments with mice, the investigators were able to convert 10 percent of scar tissue cells into heart muscle cells, according to an institute news release.

The two newly identified chemicals increased by eightfold the number of heart cells created. The chemicals also sped up the process, achieving in one week what used to take six to eight weeks. However, experts note that studies conducted in animals often fail to pan out in human trials.

“Heart failure afflicts many people worldwide, and we still do not have an effective treatment for patients suffering from this disease,” said study first author Tamer Mohamed, a former postdoctoral scholar at Gladstone.

“With our enhanced method of direct cardiac reprogramming, we hope to combine gene therapy with drugs to create better treatments for patients suffering from this devastating disease,” Mohamed said in news release.

There is no cure for heart failure, which affects 5.7 million Americans and costs the United States $30.7 billion a year, according to background information in the release.

The study was published Nov. 10 in the journal Circulation.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on heart failure.