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Scientists discover a key to mending broken hearts

Researchers at the have healed injured hearts of living mice by reactivating long dormant molecular machinery found in the animals’ cells, a finding that could help pave the way to new therapies for heart disorders in humans.

The new results, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, suggest that although adult mammals don’t normally regenerate damaged tissue, they may retain a latent ability as a holdover from development like their distant ancestors on the evolutionary tree. When the Salk researchers blocked four molecules thought to suppress these programs for regenerating organs, they saw a drastic improvement in heart regeneration and healing in the mice.

[Zebrafish Heart]
An injured zebrafish heart shows proliferating cells in the wounded area of the heart (red) and cardiac muscle cells (green).
Credit: Salk Institute


Other authors on the study include Nuria Montserrat of the Center of Regenerative Medicine of Barcelona (CMRB), Barcelona, Spain; Josep Maria Campistol of the Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, Spain; Serena Zachiggna and Mauro Giacca of the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Trieste, Italy; Emmanuel Nivet, Tomoaki Hishida, Marie Nicole Krause, Leo Kurian, Alejandro Ocampo, Eric Vazquez-Ferrer, Concepcion Rodriguez-Esteban, and Sachin Kumar of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies; and James Moresco and John Yates III of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

The work was supported by the Ipsen Foundation; the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine; a Nomis Foundation postdoctoral fellowship; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Charitable Foundation; and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Salk Institute