Posted on Nov 25, 2011

November 18, 2011 - Science Daily reports that scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research and the Schuctermann Klinik have identified a protein that could force heart muscle cells to revert to "precursor" cells.

What this development does is allow heart muscle tissue that has been damaged in a traumatic cardiac event to heal itself. Regenerating heart muscle requires a considerable amount of damaged tissue be replaced by new tissue, but another method - one that has been observed in lesser vertebrates such as the salamander - involves the surviving tissue regressing into an earlier cellular phase. 

This process is called dedifferentiation, and it enables these precursor cells to repopulate and convert into healthy heart muscle cells.

It will be years before the molecule, dubbed oncostatin M, is synthesized in a usable form for human beings, but it could lead to considerable changes in the quality and expectancy of life for those who have suffered heart cell and tissue damage after a heart attack.

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