April 03, 2009
Heart Muscle Cells Divide And Create Replacements

The heart creates new cells even after it reaches adult size. Work in Sweden carefully quantifies the rate at which new cells get generated.

In a finding that may open new approaches to treating heart disease, Swedish scientists have succeeded in measuring a highly controversial property of the human heart: the rate at which its muscle cells are renewed during a personís lifetime.

So much for the conventional wisdom.

The finding upturns what has long been conventional wisdom: that the heart cannot produce new muscle cells and so people die with the same heart they were born with.

The problem is that the replacement rate declines with age. Then when pieces break they do not get replaced and we decay.

About 1 percent of the heart muscle cells are replaced every year at age 25, and that rate gradually falls to less than half a percent per year by age 75, concluded a team of researchers led by Dr. Jonas Frisen of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

What we need: youthful cell therapies that will bump the cell replacement rate back up to 1% per year. Likely we will need an even faster replacement rate to make up for lost time. We need these therapies in other organs and other parts of the body as well. Certainly we need replacement cells for other muscle types.

Update: This report is reason for optimism. Since we have an existing mechanism whereby damaged heart muscle cells get replaced the development of cell therapies to replace muscle cells becomes easier. The existing mechanism for repair can be rejuvenated and enhanced with better replacement cells. Also, the very gradual rate of replacement means if we can just restore the repair process it might be able to gradually regain lost ground by slowly but steadily producing more cells to fit into niches where they are needed.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 April 03 12:19 AM  Aging Cardiovascular Studies


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