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Novel Heart Regeneration Through Molecular Suppression

Update Date: Nov 08, 2014 08:38 PM EST

Paving way for novel heart treatments, researchers have identified long dormant molecular machineries that can help heart cells regenerate post trauma.

Researchers at Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California have identified four micro RNA molecules that are heavily expressed in mice with injured hearts. Suppression of the molecular activity initiated cardiac regeneration, improved heart functioning and also reduced scarring caused due to heart attacks. The effects were not short lived as researchers found that the rats' heart condition was improving after three months, Daily News and Analysis reported.

"Organ regeneration is a fascinating phenomenon that seemingly recapitulates the processes observed during development. However, despite our current understanding of how embryogenesis and development proceeds, the mechanisms preventing regeneration in adult mammals have remained elusive," says the study's senior author Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory at Salk and holder of the Roger Guillemin Chair.

The four molecules that researchers zeroed on are MiR-99, MiR-100, Let-7a and Let-7c. To inhibit the activity of these molecules in adult mice, researchers injected inhibitors through carrier viruses. They are now working on ways to inject the inhibitors without the viruses.

The new method of treatment, called regenerative reprogramming, contrasts with stem-cell regeneration as it s the heart's cells that proliferate to improve organ condition.

"The good thing is that the success was not limited to the short term, which is quite common in cardiac regenerative biology," said Ignacio Sancho-Martinez, a postdoctoral researcher in Belmonte's lab, in a press release.

"The next step is to move into larger animals and see whether regenerative reprogramming"can work in larger hearts, and for extended periods after treatment. And, although the virus packaging disappeared from the animals' bodies by 2 weeks after treatment, effort are underway to deliver the inhibitors to avoid the need for viruses altogether," researchers wrote.

The findings of the study have been published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

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