Journey from Heartbreak
Scar tissue that forms after a heart attack can be transformed back into healthy heart muscle when stimulated in the laboratory. Shown here are rejuvenated muscle cells, called cardiomyocytes (yellow-green). But turning this lab-based finding into a treatment for patients isn’t straightforward, partly because not all cells transform at the same time. Researchers have recently found out how to overcome this hurdle by analysing mouse heart cells one at a time. They identified the step-by-step molecular changes that occur when a scar cell, called a fibroblast, gradually reverts to become a cardiomyocyte. By combining analyses of cellular gene activity (expression) with chemical approaches and mathematical modelling, the team created a high-resolution road-map of cell conversion and also identified the key molecules that regulate this process. These findings could help to inform the development of new regenerative medicines for heart disease.
Written by Deborah Oakley
- Image from the Qian Lab, UNC School of Medicine
- McAllister Heart Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
- Image copyright held by the original authors
- Research published in Nature, October 2017