For the first time, scientists have found a mammal with the ability to regrow heart tissue, according to new research published on February 25 and by the BBC.
Scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that young mice, of only a day old, have the same regenerative ability in their muscle that only some fish, such as the zebrafish, were previously known to have.
The implication of this new discovery on the capacities of the human heart and post-heart disease treatment is significant.
"Everything we know about development and early function of the mouse heart is comparable to the human heart, so we're quite confident that this process does exist in humans, although that of course still has to be shown," Professor Eric Olson, senior author in the study, told the news source.
Comparatively, the hearts of mice about one-week-old did not have the same regenerative ability, suggesting that this phenomenon is extremely temporary after birth.
The research, published in the journal Science, showed that when scientists removed about 15 percent of the heart in the left ventricular apex, the mice were able to quickly regrow the missing muscles. The heart was complete after 21 days and worked normally even after two months.
The regenerated cells seemed to come from other heart muscle and not from stem-cells.
"Now the question is maybe we can control this ability to regenerate at a site of interest. If that's possible, then the therapeutic potential is huge," Dr. Stephen Badylak, president of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society, told U.S. News.
More research is needed to determine the potential for heart regeneration in humans, especially in the adult heart. Survivors of heart attacks often suffer from damaged portions of their heart and would benefit from heart regeneration.