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A New Way to Repair Damaged Cardiac Cells

For the first time ever, the scientists have converted damaged heart tissue into normally functioning cardiac cells in an animal study. This task has long remained a challenge for regenerative medicine. The study results were published in the journal Circulation Research.

As a result of infarction, cardiac cells—cardiomyocytes—get damaged, lose their functions and turn into fibroblasts which form so-called scar tissue. According to the researchers, an ideal approach to treating patients in post-infarction period would assume direct conversion of fibroblasts into cardiomyocytes.

To achieve that, the researchers identified specific micro RNAs (miRNAs) able to induce reprogramming of fibroblasts into cardiomyocytes and used it both in vitro and vivo to convert one cell type into the other. Fibroblasts treated with miRNAs were converted into cardiomyocyte-like cells both in a dish and in ischemic mouse.

This is the first study demonstrating how to directly convert scar tissue into normally functioning heart areas. It can lead to developing effective approach of treating heart patients who are often offered only supportive therapy, not a cure, by a conventional medicine. Another approach to treating heart diseases that is actively developing is stem cell therapy.