Jekyll and Hyde phagocytes: Heart can repair itself after an infarction

Some people recover well after a heart attack, while others develop heart failure.

Jekyll and Hyde phagocytes: Heart can repair itself after an infarction

Some people recover well after a heart attack, while others develop heart failure. A research team in the USA is discovering why this is so. The phagocytes that take care of the damaged tissue apparently have a Jekyll and a Hyde side.

"You can't repair a heart," sang Udo Lindenberg. And even if you know what the singer means, of course, from a scientific point of view he is wrong. Because the heart is very well able to repair itself after a heart attack. Researchers in the USA have now tracked down the mechanism behind these repairs.

According to a study by the Ann

People who suffer a heart attack are at high risk for heart failure. This happens because some macrophages that arrive at the site of damage are pro-inflammatory and do not induce VEGFC. "It's a scenario by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with 'good' macrophages inducing VEGFC and the 'bad' ones not. We have to prevent the 'bad' macrophages from doing further damage," said co-author Guillermo Oliver. That's why they are working to "better understand the progression of heart failure after a heart attack in order to intervene early and switch the course back to heart repair".

The challenge is finding a way to either deliver VEGFC or persuade those macrophages to induce more VEGFC to speed up the heart repair process, Thorp explains. According to the researchers, the insights into the basic mechanisms of heart repair are the first step towards the development of novel therapeutic approaches to preserve heart function. The results were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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