Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have found, for the first time that young humans (infants, children and adolescents) are capable of generating new heart muscle cells. These findings refute the long-held belief that the human heart grows after birth exclusively by enlargement of existing cells, and raise the possibility that scientists could stimulate production of new cells to repair injured hearts.
Findings of the study, "Cardiomyocyte proliferation contributes to post-natal heart growth in young humans," were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Online Early Edition, the week of Jan 7-Jan 11, 2013. The study was led by Bernhard Kühn, MD, of the Department of Cardiology at Boston Children's.
Beginning in 2009, Dr. Kühn and his team looked at specimens from healthy human hearts, ranging in age from 0 to 59 years. Using several laboratory assays, they documented that cells in these hearts were still dividing after birth, significantly expanding the heart cell population. The cells regenerated at their highest rates during infancy. Regeneration declined after infancy, rose during the adolescent growth spurt, and continued up until around age 20.
The findings offer the strongest evidence to date that proliferation of cardiomyocytes (the cells making up heart muscle) contributes to growth in healthy young human hearts.
"For more than 100 years," Kühn says, "people have been debating whether human heart muscle cells are generated after birth or whether they simply grow larger." Kühn points out that research in the 1930s and 1940s suggested that cardiomyocyte division may continue after birth, and recent reports about myocardial regeneration in zebrafish and neonatal mice suggest that some young animals regenerate heart muscle by using mechanisms of muscle cell division. Still, for many years, the accepted belief in the scientific community was that human hearts grow after birth only because cells grow larger.
Kühn's work challenges the accepted wisdom and offers hope for new treatments for heart failure. Babies and children may be able to increase heart muscle cell proliferation and regenerate damaged parts of their heart muscle. In addition, the study points to new research directions by suggesting that abnormal cardiomyocyte proliferation may be involved in diseases of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy) that affect young humans, and that cardiomyocyte proliferation could be stimulated in young humans for the treatment of heart failure.
The findings, according to Kühn, help to create a "cellular blueprint for how the human heart grows after birth." Using this blueprint, treatment strategies could be developed to treat heart failure in children
Boston Children's Hospital: http://www.childrenshospital.org/newsroom
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
With funding from the Defense Department, scientists have begun work on devices that would use electric pulses to realign a memory process gone awry
On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration released a vital set of numbers about the routine use of antibiotics …
Side order of veg with that mammoth leg? The Neanderthal diet was probably more varied than we think – using vegetables, herbs and different cooking techniques
An exoskeleton that enables movement and provides tactile feedback has helped eight paralysed people regain sensation and move previously paralysed muscles
A female western gray whale set a new record swimming from Russia to Mexico and back, a total of 13,988 miles, in 172 days
Scientists operating a remote-controlled vehicle about 2,000 feet below water get a rare glimpse of a sperm whale. CBSN's Vladimir Duthiers and Elaine Quijano report on the video.
According to the experts, "blinking is like a kitty kiss"
Genetic profiling of cancer cells can help guide treatment, but such profiles can be ambiguous. Results would be more accurate if all labs tested normal cells from each patient, too.
Researchers in Kenya uncover tools dated to 3.3 million years ago, long before the first humans, as we know them, walked the Earth.
Researchers are facing up to methodological flaws that plague functional magnetic resonance imaging, but the interpretative problems might be harder to solve