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Heart Disease

Producing New Heart Muscle Cells By Flicking A Signalling Switch

Posted on 21 September 2016

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Modulating an important signalling pathway appears to trigger the production of new heart muscle cells, also known as cardiomyocytes

There are a number of essential signalling molecules that play an integral role in embryonic growth, and one of these is called Wnt. The Wnt pathway sets up correct body axis patterning, controls cell fate and continues to perform a range of central biological functions following development; controlling tissue regeneration in certain tissues among other things.

Does Wnt control cardiomyocyte formation?

Cardiomyocytes form an essential component of the heart – providing the vital contraction that pumps blood around the body. Damaged or poorly functioning hearts often struggle with correct elasticity and muscular function, which a fresh new supply cardiomyocytes could possibly correct. 

Previous work has determined that promoting and inhibiting the Wnt pathway in a specific manner may actually encourage new muscle cell formation in the heart, and now new efforts at the University of Aberdeen appear to have confirmed the findings. 

“During embryonic life we can make heart muscle cells but if an adult suffers from heart infarction in later life the heart muscle can’t regenerate sufficiently to repair itself. What this research shows is that flicking the switch to turn Wnt signalling on or off is not just an experimental trick, but recapitulates normal heart muscle cell formation. This is potentially extremely important considering the huge impact that cardiovascular disease has on modern society”

By carefully monitoring Wnt signalling, the researchers gathered further evidence that Wnt modulation could be an effective method of forming new cardiomyocytes. If this research can be expanded further to targeted treatments following heart injury or before issues arise in the first place, then it could greatly assist in recovery and rejuvenation. Novel heart treatments are sorely needed – especially of a regenerative variety. 

Read more at MedicalXpress

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