Sometimes accidents lead to the greatest discoveries. In a recent study conducted at Israeli medical center Hadassah, researchers stumbled on a key mechanism in the heart’s regenerative capabilities.
Researchers were examining the left atrial appendage, a part of the heart whose role is relatively unknown and is sometimes removed in heart-surgery, when they noticed something astonishing.
When a different part of the heart was placed in the left atrial appendage, tissue began growing on it, indicating that cells of the appendage function not unlike embryonic stem cells.
“Suddenly, tissue was seen growing inside the stent,” Professor Ronen Beeri, the director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at Hadassah and one of the study’s partners, reported in the study, according to Haaretz. “The tissue had a structural resemblance to tissue that was known to grow inside the atrial appendage,” he said.
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When analyzing the genetic component of the cells, it was concluded that these cells are very likely to possess the ability to become any type of tissue found in the heart, like embryonic stem cells.
A broken heart can heal itself
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After documenting this phenomenon in sheep, researchers moved on to mice, to further examine the regeneration. They found that the atrial appendage actually contains stem cells for heart regeneration.
Up until now, cardiologist worked under the assumption that the heart cannot heal itself. This study challenges this notion. The study opens a whole different approach for heart regeneration.
Professor Beeri says that the most common form of heart damage is the result of cardiac-arrest, birth defects and valve problems. If applied to humans, this discovery could lead to a new form of bandaging.
The research, recently published in medical journal PLOS ONE, was conducted by Beeri along with Dr. Jussi Leinonen, Dr. Avishag Korkus-Emanuelov and Dr. Sara Hoss of Hadassah University Hospital.
Photo by Gabriela Camerotti