Heart Failure Treatment Could Be In Our Blood
Harvard researchers stitched two mice together and rejuvenated one of their hearts. Seriously.
Researchers from Harvard Stem Cell Institute found what they believe could be a way to rejuvenate aging hearts usingâ€”and this is where it gets crazyâ€”an experiment in which the circulatory system of a young mouse was stitched together with the circulatory system of an aging mouse. Stay with us.
After the two mice were connected, the researchers could clearly see that the aging mouseÂ heart was being regenerated by something in the young mouse’s blood, which they later identified to be the protein GDF-11. A Boston Globe article quotes researcher Richard T. Lee:
â€śThe change was unbelievably obvious,â€ť said Dr. Richard T. Lee, a cardiologist at Brigham and Womenâ€™s Hospital and one of the leaders of the study, published Thursday in the journalÂ Cell. â€śUsually we do quite sophisticated quantitative analyses of hearts and the shapes of the cells and things like that. … You could see what happened from the very first experiment.â€ť
Though the research is far from translatable to humans at this point, theÂ GlobeÂ article explains that the findings could someday be applied as a way to thwart or treat heart failure, and potentially even prevent the harm brought to other tissues and organs as they age.
Not everyone is so sure, though. The article quotesÂ Dr. Eduardo MarbĂˇn, director of Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute:
â€śTheyâ€™ve elucidated a mechanism of normal aging which may, at the level of plausibility, have something to do with heart failure,â€ť said Dr. Eduardo MarbĂˇn, director of Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. He added, â€śthereâ€™s absolutely no demonstration in this paper that GDF-11 will help heart failure, or be involved at all in any disease state. … This is the beginning of a long road.â€ť
MarbĂˇn said that as all people age, their hearts naturally change, with cells getting larger and the muscle walls thickening. But he noted that most of those people never develop heart failure, so it is unclear whether the effect the researchers achieved would be a way to successfully treat heart failure.
Doubts and all, we think this study, aside from being fascinating, opens the door to a new way of looking at aging and organ failure in the human body. Looking at treatment at the molecular level seems like a pretty brilliant idea to us.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/health/blog/2013/05/13/heart-failure-mouse-study/