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Weizmann Institute scientists regenerate heart cells in mice

 


(ISRAEL21c)—New research at the Weizmann Institute of Science could point to ways of renewing heart cells and eventually lead to new treatments for cardiovascular diseases.

As opposed to blood, hair or skin cells that can renew themselves throughout life, our heart cells cease to divide shortly after birth, and there is very little renewal in adulthood. New research at the Weizmann Institute of Science provides insight into the question of why the mammalian heart fails to regenerate, and demonstrated, in adult mice, the possibility of turning back this fate.

The research appeared in Nature Cell Biology.

Prof. Eldad Tzahor of the Institute’s Biological Regulation Department thought that part of the answer to the regeneration puzzle might lie in his area of expertise: embryonic development, especially of the heart.

Tzahor looked to a protein called ERBB2 – which is well studied because it can pass along growth signals promoting certain kinds of cancer – and which plays a role in heart development.

ERBB2 is a specialized receptor – a protein that transmits external messages into the cell. ERBB2 generally works together with a second, related, receptor by binding a growth factor called Neuregulin 1 (NRG1) to transmit its message. NGR1 is already being tested in clinical studies for treating heart failure.

In mice, new heart muscle cells can be added up to a week after birth; newborn mice can regenerate damaged hearts, while seven-day-old mice cannot.

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