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Osaka University Team Discovers Regenerative Ability in the Heart Muscle

Reproduction Ability Hidden in Myocardium --- Osaka University Group

Mammalian cardiomyocytes (heart muscles) were thought to be unable to proliferate, but by mouse experiment, Osaka University’s research group revealed that there are cells that proliferate during recovery from inflammation. The research results which discovered hidden regenerative ability in the cardiomyocytes may lead to new treatment of heart failure. The research paper was published on the May 3rd electronic issue of a British science journal.

According to the research group led by Professor Yasushi Fujio,* increasing heart failures are caused by dying and diminishing heart muscles. Up to now, mammalian cardiomyocytes were thought to lose ability to proliferate immediately after birth. Under such circumstances, research on regenerative medicine is progressing to develop new treatment for severe heart failure. For instance, pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) are differentiated so that they can be transplanted to cardiomyocytes.
* Laboratory of Clinical Science and Biomedicine at the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Osaka University (Suita, OSAKA)

Professor Fujio’s team focused on the fact that heart function of patients who developed viral myocarditis recovered spontaneously. They thought that adult mammalian heart may have some regenerative or reparative ability and thus experimented with a model mouse with myocarditis.

After analyzing the state of cardiomyocytes during its recovery from inflammation, it was found that cardiomyocytes proliferate in the myocardial tissue during the recovery phase, although they once diminished from inflammation. They were able to confirm that a protein called STAT3 was active in the inflamed mouse and this led to the proliferation of cardiomyocytes.

The research group says it may be able to establish a technique to awaken the hidden regenerative ability of cardiomyocytes in the heart (even in humans)." (in Japanese)