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From scar tissue to beating mouse hearts: We can rebuild them, we have the technology

If you’re lucky enough to survive a heart attack, you’re often left with half a heart. Not in the literal sense, but the cardiac muscle that was deprived of oxygen during the heart attack will more often than not form scar tissue. This scar tissue doesn’t beat like normal heart tissue, which weakens an already troubled organ.

What if doctors could reverse that damage and turn tough, nearly dead scar tissue back to heart muscle? If this new mouse research can translate to humans, we just might be able to do that.

Out of the ~25,000 genes in the human genome, how many do you think you’d have to add to get regular structural cells to turn to cardiac muscle tissue? 100? 50? How about 3?

By expressing just three genes, Gata4, Mef2c, and Tbx5, fibroblast support cells were able to turn into cardiac muscle, begin beating, and prevent scar tissue formation in mouse hearts. It didn’t require surgery or stem cells. Just adding the three genes on a harmless virus and getting them into hearts was all it took.

Wanna see what these reprogrammed cardiac muscle cells look like? Here’s a video of them beating in a petri dish, thanks to Christie Wilcox.

(via Not Exactly Rocket Science, image of myocardial infarction scar tissue via Wikipedia)