Researchers discover ‘stunning’ method to repair heart cells after a heart attack

Jun 21, 2022
1.6 per cent of people will experience a heart attack sometime in their life, which equates to 375,000 Australians. Source: Getty Images.

Researchers at the University of Houston (UH) have discovered a first-of-its-kind technique to help repair heart cells following a heart attack, potentially offering an effective treatment for heart disease in humans.

The study published in The Journal of Cardiovascular Aging, identified two factors, known as Stemin and YAP5SA, that cause the replication of heart cells (cardiomyocytes) to increase. Tests conducted on mouse cells in lab dishes revealed that Stemin activates stem-cell-like properties in cardiomyocytes, while YAP5SA promotes organ growth.

These two factors were delivered to the heart cells using synthetic mRNA. When the synthetic mRNA was injected into lab mice the replication of the animals’ heart cells had increased by at least 15 times within a 24-hour time period, significantly improving cardiac function.

Given that the adult heart lacks the regenerative capacity to self-repair the study presents important findings into the treatment for those who have suffered a heart attack.

Distinguished Professor of biology and biochemistry at the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Robert Schwartz who led the study said “no one has been able to do this to this extent and we think it could become a possible treatment for humans”.

“When both transcription factors were injected into infarcted adult mouse hearts, the results were stunning,” Schwartz said.

“The lab found cardiac myocytes multiplied quickly within a day, while hearts over the next month were repaired to near normal cardiac pumping function with little scarring.”

Ph.D graduate Siyu Xiao, who also worked on the study, said he felt “honored and lucky to have worked on this”.

“This is a huge study in heart regeneration especially given the smart strategy of using mRNA to deliver Stemin and YAP5SA,” Xiao said.

According to the Heart Foundation, 1.6 per cent of people will experience a heart attack sometime in their life, which equates to 375,000 Australians.

Twice as many men experience heart attacks compared to females and more males die from heart attacks compared to females.

Heart attacks are responsible for causing almost one in 20 deaths. This equates to one person dying of a heart attack every 74 minutes, or on average 19 people every day.

Alarmingly a survey of 1,000 Australians conducted by the Heart Foundation found that 64 percent of people aged between 45 and 74 had not had a Heart Health Check through their GP in the past two years, despite more than half of that cohort having either high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or being told that they are at high risk of heart disease by a doctor.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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