Healing a Broken Heart

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Science  07 Nov 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5903, pp. 823
DOI: 10.1126/science.322.5903.823a

The ability to regenerate damaged tissues and organs varies widely across animals. While mammals are able to repair ruptured muscles and to regrow fingertips, amphibia and fish have the more resilient tissues, being able to regenerate tails, fins, and even hearts. Although heart regeneration was thought to be restricted to a few species of amphibia, it is of particular interest to humans, because coronary heart disease remains a leading cause of death. Drenckhahn et al. have found that the fetal mouse heart is able to replace damaged tissue. The enzyme holocytochrome c synthase (Hccs) is involved in mitochondrial energy generation, and the authors inactivated the X-linked Hccs gene in female mice. At mid-gestation, heterozygous female hearts contained equal numbers of healthy and damaged cells; by the time of birth, these mice had fully functioning hearts, with less than 10% damaged cells. Thus, the mouse fetal heart appears to be regenerated predominantly from differentiated cardiac cells, suggesting that differentiated cells in the adult might retain an intrinsic capacity to expand and replace damaged tissue. Further studies aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms involved could lead to ways of stimulating the regeneration of adult diseased hearts. — HP*

Dev. Cell 15, 521 (2008).

  • *Helen Pickersgill and Chris Surridge are locum editors in Science's editorial department.

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