Scientists have reported the discovery of a new gene that could have an important impact on future treatments for heart conditions. A specific gene in mice called Meis1 seems to act to prevent heart tissue from regenerating. However, when the researchers managed to 'switch off' the Meis1 gene healthy new heart cells were produced.1
Some parts of your body, for example your skin, consist of cells that naturally divide and reproduce to regenerate and create new tissue. This process is known as mitosis, but mitosis doesn't occur everywhere in your body and scientists believe that your heart cells lose the ability to divide and reproduce shortly after you are born.
The discovery of Meis1, and the ability to disable it in mice, may mean that humans could benefit from similar techniques to repair the kind of damage to the heart that can occur as a result of heart failure.
The conclusion reached by researchers was that Meis1 is a crucial component of how the production of new heart cells is regulated. Further, they maintain that their research indicates that it's theoretically possible to reverse the process by which cell development in the human heart is halted.
While it is too early to tell if the Meis1 gene may actually form the basis for future therapies, or whether treatments that target it will be both effective and safe when treating heart failure patients, the new research does identify a possible mechanism that prevents the adult heart from repairing itself.
1. Mahmoud AI, Kocabas F, Muralidhar SA. Meis1 regulates postnatal cardiomyocyte cell cycle arrest. Nature. Published online April 17 2013