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Medical Breakthrough: Face Holds Key To Effective Heart Treatments?

Update Date: Feb 10, 2017 09:30 AM EST

Cardiovascular diseases are among the top health problems that afflict a great majority of the global population. In the latest medical breakthrough, researchers from the University of Cincinnati have found the effectiveness of a new heart treatment with the face of the patient playing an important role in the treatment.

The novel cell therapy developed by the team of researchers under Professor Yi-Gang Wang have successfully developed a treatment that potentially repairs the heart using modified cells obtained from the patient's very own facial muscles. By using the patient's own facial muscles in the treatment, it reduces the risk of the body rejecting the cells and development of tumors.

The heart treatment being developed by Professor Wang and his team focuses on the regeneration of the heart muscle after the heart suffers from an attack. The team of researchers is hoping to find a way to replace cells during a heart attack.

After a decade of research, Professor Wang and his team were able to identify that the facial muscle cells, in particular, the masseter cells have similar gene expression with the heart muscle cells or cardiomyocytes. By removing the skeletal muscle genes of the masseter cells, the researchers were able to reprogram the masseter cells into cardiomyocytes. The now reprogrammed masseter cells also have the same ability to spontaneously beat to pump blood in the heart.

In the new heart treatment proposed by the researchers, the reprogrammed masseter cells turned cardiomyocytes are either administered to the patient through injection or through a patch. The heart treatment has already found to be efficient in generating more cardiomyocytes in the small animals tested and the team is hoping to replicate the success on larger animals.

As reported by the UC's College of Medicine, the cell therapy technique and potential heart treatment were awarded a 2.4 million dollars federal funding from the National Institutes of Health Research Project Grant.

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