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[Medicine] New protein 'regenerates' the heart after an attack


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A new study brings us one step closer to "the 'holy grail' of heart research:" heart regeneration. When injected in rodents, a new protein triggers a process that helps the heart to recover following an attack.


According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the United States has a heart attack every 40 seconds.


Almost 800,000 people in the U.S. have a heart attack every year, with 1 in 5 people not even being aware that they had one.


During a heart attack, or a myocardial infarction, the oxygen-carrying blood flow does not reach the heart.


Because of the oxygen deprivation, cells begin to die — thereby damaging a person's heart muscle.


This causes the immune system to dispatch immune cells to the "injury site" in an attempt to get rid of the dead cells. However, these immune cells also cause inflammation, which leads to cardiac fibrosis.


In the long-term, the damage caused by the immune cells is greater than their help. The scar tissue in cardiac fibrosis does not contract, impairing the heart's ability to pump blood. Ultimately, this could lead to heart failure.


So far, medical scientists have not managed to find a solution to this problem. But now, a team led by researchers at Oxford University in the United Kingdom may have found a protein that, when injected after a heart attack, reduces heart muscle damage and helps the heart to regain its pumping function.


The new study was led by Paul Riley, a professor of regenerative medicine at the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Centre of Regenerative Medicine at Oxford University.


The results were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.


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