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Protein patch created that could heal damage by heart attacks


In an experiment conducted on pig and mouse hearts, researchers from Stanford University have shown that a "protein patch" created by them can reverse damage to hearts caused by heart attacks, Medical News Today reports. 

The patch may be available for human clinical trials as soon as 2017.

The experiments were conducted by Prof. Pilar Ruiz-Lozano, of Stanford University, CA, and his colleagues who published the details of their study in the journal Nature

A heart attack causes damage to the heart muscle cells due to the absence of oxygen caused by reduced blood flow. Usually, the damage is irreversible and results in a scar tissue.  A scar tissue can further lead to complications including arrhythmias, abnormal heartbeat, and heart failure. 

There is currently no treatment available for reversing or repairing damage to heart issues following a myocardial infraction. 

For the study, Professor Pilar Ruiz-Lozano looked toward the past studies of zebrafish, a species that can regenerate its own heart cells with a special layer of cells in the heart called the epicardium. The epicardium releases around 300 proteins that sets off the replication of cardiomyocytes. 

"We wanted to know what in the epicardium stimulates the myocardium, the muscle of the heart, to regenerate," says Prof. Ruiz-Lozano. 

The research team identified a protein called Follistatin-like 1 (FSLT1) in the epicardial tissue that helped heart cells to replicate. The researchers applied the protein to a patch and discovered that by attaching it to the heart, cells began to regenerate quickly. The team found that the protein set off the replication of muscle cells that led to the growth of new blood vessels within 4 weeks.

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