TO HEAL A BRO­KEN HEART

Cosmos - - Digest -

A ze­brafish is un­likely to die of a bro­ken heart. The fish, about the size of your pinky, can lose a fifth of its heart and grow it back. Now Wil­liam Chen and col­leagues from the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh have traced its se­cret, as re­ported in

Science Ad­vances last Novem­ber. It lies not with the heart cells but the scaf­fold­ing that sup­ports them, known as ex­tra­cel­lu­lar ma­trix (ECM).

Mice that suf­fered heart at­tacks made a re­mark­able re­cov­ery once in­jected with a pow­der of ze­brafish heart ECM. Nor­mally, mouse heart cells rarely mul­ti­ply, but they kicked in, re­pop­u­lat­ing the dam­aged heart mus­cle and restor­ing its elas­tic­ity. Some of the pow­der’s prop­er­ties ap­pear at­trib­ut­able to neureg­ulin-1 and Erbb2, pro­teins which reg­u­late cell pro­lif­er­a­tion.

The pow­der also stim­u­lated hu­man heart cells grow­ing in a dish to pro­lif­er­ate. The au­thors are now test­ing to see if the ze­brafish pow­der can mend the hearts of larger an­i­mals.

CREDIT: K H FUNG / SPL / GETTY IM­AGES

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