Scientists discover a protein that treats diseased hearts

Scientists discover a protein that treats diseased hearts

Scientists discover a protein that treats diseased hearts
Scientists discover a protein that treats diseased hearts

Scientists at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have made major advances in cellular reprogramming and organ regeneration that could play a key role in future drugs to treat damaged hearts.

In the study, whose results were published in the journal "Stem Cells", scientists discovered a streamlined and effective way to reprogram scar tissue cells (fibroblasts) to become healthy heart muscle cells.

The fibroblasts usually produce hard tissue that causes heart failure after a heart attack or muscle disease.

The study focuses on manipulating this tough tissue into heart muscle cells, relying on a protein that controls gene activity called Ascl1, which was previously thought to be specific to neurons.

The scientists applied three techniques to reprogram mouse fibroblasts into heart muscle cells, liver cells and neurons, and their goal was to catalog and compare changes in the cells' genetic activity patterns and factors regulating gene activity during these three reprogramming processes.

The researchers found that reprogramming fibroblasts into neurons activates a group of cardiomyocyte genes, caused by the protein Ascl1.

After activating the cardiomyocyte genes, the researchers added them to the mix of the three transcription factors they had previously used to make cardiomyocytes, to see what would happen.

The scientists were surprised to discover that it dramatically increased the efficiency of reprogramming - the proportion of cells that had been successfully reprogrammed - by more than 10-fold.

They discovered that they could now dispense two of the three factors from their original mix, keeping only Ascl1 and another transcription factor called Mef2c.

The discovery is expected to be useful in developing future cardiac therapies and other potential types of therapeutic cellular reprogramming, said lead study author Li Qian, a professor in the University of North Carolina's Department of Pathology.

Doctors will be able to use a simple injection into patients to reprogram the damaging cells into beneficial cells, Qian added.

Ascl1 and Mef2c work together to exert supportive effects on cardiomyocytes that neither of the two factors exerts alone, making the reprogramming process effective, he explained.

The researchers hope to make a synthetic protein that contains the active parts of both Ascl1 and Mef2c, and can be injected into diseased hearts for repair.

The heart of men ages in a completely different way from the heart of women!

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