miércoles, 17 de abril de 2013

Gene could rejuvenate old hearts

Old or damaged hearts could be regenerated simply by switching off a gene which prevents cells from dividing, researchers have claimed.

The findings suggest that deactivating the gene could lead to new treatments for adult heart failure patients Photo: Alamy

The hearts of newborns have the remarkable capacity to heal themselves after injury by generating new heart cells but we lose this ability shortly after birth. Now researchers have for the first time identified the gene which causes this change, allowing cells to continue dividing and potentially giving the adult heart the same regenerative power. In experiments on rats, deleting the Meis1 gene allowed the heart cells of newborn mice to keep dividing for longer, and reactivated the regeneration process in adults without impeding the normal working of the heart. Results also showed that making the gene more active in newborn mice prevented their cells from dividing and regenerating damaged tissue. The findings suggest that deactivating the gene could lead to new treatments for adult heart failure patients and offer an alternative to stem cell therapies currently being developed, researchers said.Dr.
Hesham Sadek of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre, who led the study, explained: "We found that Meis1 controls several genes that normally act as brakes on cell division. "As such, Meis1 could possibly be used as an on/off switch for making adult heart cells divide. If done successfully, this ability could introduce a new era in treatment for heart failure." Heart failure, which limits the heart's ability to effectively pump blood around the body, affects more than 700,000 people in the UK. It is most commonly caused by heart attack damage, but can also result from a variety of other conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease and congenital illness. The researchers wrote in the Nature journal: "The hallmark of heart failure is the progressive nature of the disease, and the inability of the adult heart to regenerate after injury." The transition which takes place in the heart shortly after birth could be the "key to unlocking the regenerative potential" of adult hearts, they said.

source and credit a telegraph