How to Turn Damaged Heart Tissue Back into Healthy Heart Muscle-New Details Emerge

Source: University of North Carolina Health Care

Summary: In a new study, researchers have shown that a damaged heart tissue (scar tissue) can be reversed into a healthy heart tissue.

After a heart attack, scar tissue is formed in the damaged muscle. Reversing this scar tissue into a healthy heart muscle would be a game changer in the field of cardiology and regenerative medicine. Researchers from the University of North Carolina Health Care have shown that it is possible to change scar tissue cells (fibroblasts) into healthy heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes). But the process isn’t that easy and using this approach in clinics and basic research projects is elusive. The study was published in the journal Nature.

Heart scar tissue

Cardiofibroblasts changed into iCMs – induced cardiomyocytes that compose healthy heart muscle. Credit: Qian Lab, UNC School of Medicine

Researchers used a single cell RNA sequencing technology and combined it with mathematical modeling, genetic and chemical approaches to draw out step-by-step molecular changes which occur during the conversion of fibroblasts to cardiomyocytes. For the past several years, Qian’s lab has pioneered and fine-tuned in a promising approach, Direct Cardiac Reprogramming (DCR) for cardiac regeneration and disease modeling. This approach involves the direct conversion of cardiac non-myocytes into induced cardiomyocytes (iCMs). Ultimately this approach benefits heart patients as well as patients with cancers, diabetes, neurological disorders and other diseases.

Qian, senior author said, “We used direct cardiac reprogramming as an example in this study”, “But the pipelines and methods we’ve established here can be used in any other reprogramming process, and potentially other unsynchronized and heterogeneous biological processes” and further added, “Manipulating epigenetic memories – not just changing their current epigenetic status – could be crucial for altering a cell’s fate for therapeutic value.”

More Information: Ziqing Liu et al. “Single-cell transcriptomics reconstructs fate conversion from fibroblast to cardiomyocyte”, Nature (2017).

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