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Regenerating cells after a heart attack.

A molecular mechanism needed to unleash the heart's ability to regenerate has been pinpointed. This is a critical step toward developing eventual therapies for damage suffered following a heart attack.

MicroRNAs--tiny strands that regulate gene expression--contribute to the heart's ability to regenerate up to one week after birth. Soon thereafter, however, the heart loses the ability to regenerate. By determining the fundamental mechanisms that control the heart's natural regenerative on-off switch, researchers have begun to understand better the No. 1 hurdle in cardiovascular research--the inability of the heart to regenerate following injury.

"For the first time since we began studying how cells respond to a heart attack, we now believe it is possible to activate a program of endogenous regeneration," suggests internist Hesham Sadek, senior author of a study published in the National Academy of Sciences.

"It is a fresh perspective on an age-old problem," relates Eric Olson, director of Texas' Center for Basic Research in Cancer and the Center for Basic and Clinical Research in Pediatric Oncology, who is a co-corresponding author of the study. "We're encouraged by this initial finding because it provides us with a therapeutic opportunity to manipulate the heart's regenerative potential."

"This may well be the beginning of a new era in heart regeneration biology," Sadek adds. "Our research provides hope that reawakening the regenerative capacity of adult hearts is within reach."

Each year, nearly 1,000,000 people in the U.S. have a heart attack, while about 600,000 die of cardiovascular disease annually. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga.

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Title Annotation:Cardiology
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2013
Words:277
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