Scientists find protein partners could repair heart muscle

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A significant advancement by scientists at the UNC School of Medicine reported in the promising field of cellular programming and organ regeneration. The discovery could play a major role in future medicines to repair damaged hearts.

The details of the study appear in the journal Cell Stem Cell. In the study, scientists describe finding a more streamlined and efficient technique for reprogramming scar tissue cells to become healthy heart muscle cells.

Physiologically, scar tissue cells produce the stiff, stiff tissue that contributes to heart fail after a heart attack or because of heart condition. Converting scar tissue cells into healthy heart muscles is being examined as a potential future strategy for treating, and someday even curing this common and deadly condition.

Importantly, the key to the new healthy heart muscles making technique turned out to be protein called Ascl1 that controls gene activity, which is known to be an important protein involved in turning fibroblasts into neurons.

“It is an out-of-the-box finding, and is expected to be useful to develop cardiac therapies in the future, and potentially other types of therapeutic cellular reprogramming,” stated the lead author of the study.

Over the last 15 years, scientists have developed a number of techniques to reprogram adult cells to convert into stem cells, then to stimulate those stem cells to reprogram into adult cells of some other kind. More recently, scientists have been finding techniques to directly do this reprogramming – directly from one type of mature cell to another. The hope is that when these methods are created with maximum safety, effectiveness, and efficiency, doctors will be able to use a simple injection to convert harm-causing cells into useful ones.

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