Recent findings have revealed that the heart has the ability to self-repair by growing new cells after a heart attack. Researchers have found that heart muscle cells called myocytes continue to divide and grow after a heart attack.
These findings were made during a study in which hearts of 10 healthy people were compared to those of 13 people who had died a few days after a heart attack. The study involved the screening of a protein called Ki-67 in the heart cells. This particular protein is detected only in the dividing cells. The findings showed that soon after a heart attack the heart’s ability to regenerate the myocytes increases. With even more studies these findings will provide a breakthrough for patients who have suffered or are at risk of heart attacks.
Yet another study substantiates the regenerative powers of the heart. In this study heart transplant was done in 8 male patients from female donors. The examination of the heart and blood vessels of these patients after death revealed that 10% of the heart muscles contained Y-chromosomes (sex chromosome that is male determining). This proved that even male patients’ own cells migrated to the transplanted heart and helped in the repair process.
Researchers also observed that some of the cells with Y-chromosomes had features of stem cells thereby helping in the regenerative process. Stem cells are basically undifferentiated, premature cells that have a remarkable potential to develop into any type of cell in the body. They basically serve as a sort of repairing system for the body. The researchers conclude that once the findings are established it may be possible to make heart stem cells move to the damaged area of the heart and replace it with new cells.