Washington (IANS): A protein produced by the heart during its development in the embryo reverses damage caused by a heart attack.
The protein molecule Thymosin beta-4 (TB4) has been found to encourage new growth and repair damaged heart cells in mice, within 24 hours after it is injected.
“This molecule has the potential to reprogramme cells in the body to get them to do what you want them to do,” said J. Michael DiMaio, associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern (UT-S) and senior author of the study.
Tremendous progress has been made to counter the damaging effects of heart attacks but mammalian hearts are incapable of repairing themselves following damage.
They are also limited in their ability to form new blood vessels. Earlier studies demonstrated that TB4 is expressed in the embryonic heart and stimulates cardiac vessels to form. It was therefore thought that introduction of TB4 might activate new vessel growth in the adult heart.
In this study, researchers found that TB4 initiates capillary tube formation of adult coronary endothelial cells (thin layer of cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels) in tissue culture.
The molecule also encourages cardiac regeneration by inhibiting death in heart cells after an injury such as a heart attack and by stimulating new vessel growth, said an UT-S release.
“We observed that by injecting this protein systemically, (in a manner that affects an entire system) there was increased cardiac function after a heart attack,” said Ildiko Bock-Marquette, assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at UT-S and the study’s lead author.
The study will appear in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology.