Scientist Regenerate Damaged Hearts

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These researchers previously transformed scar-forming cardiac cells into beating heart muscle-like cells in petri dishes. Now they have accomplished this transformation in living animals, and with even greater success.

In laboratory experiments with mice that had experienced a heart attack, the team delivered three genes that normally guide embryonic heart development —together known as GMT — directly into the damaged region. Within a month, non-beating cells that normally form scar tissue transformed into beating heart-muscle cells. Within three months, the hearts were beating even stronger and pumping more blood.

“The damage from a heart attack is typically permanent because heart-muscle cells—deprived of oxygen during the attack—die and scar tissue forms,” said Dr.Deepak Srivastava MD, who directs cardiovascular and stem cell research at Gladstone, an independent and nonprofit biomedical-research institution. “Our experiments in mice are a proof of concept that we can reprogram non-beating cells directly into fully functional, beating heart cells—offering an innovative and less invasive way to restore heart function after a heart attack.”

Cardiovascular disease is the world’s leading cause of death. Annually in the United States alone, the nearly 1 million Americans who survive a heart attack are left with failing hearts that can no longer beat at full capacity.

“Our next goal is to replicate these experiments and test their safety in larger mammals, such as pigs, before considering clinical trials in humans,” added Dr. Srivastava, who is also a professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), with which Gladstone is affiliated. “We hope that our research will lay the foundation for initiating cardiac repair soon after a heart attack—perhaps even when the patient arrives in the emergency room.”

Adapted from the Gladstone Institutes announcement.

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