A team of researchers has helped explain why human hearts cannot regenerate.
FAU researchers David Zebrowski and Felix B. Engel from Universitatsklinikum Erlangen’s Institute of Pathology and their colleagues discover endogenous process that controls reproduction of cardiac muscle cells and may lead to new treatments for heart attacks and cancer.
In the study, they discovered that the centrosome in cardiac muscle cells undergoes a process of disassembly which is completed shortly after birth, Engel explains.
Engel added that this disassembly process proceeds by some proteins leaving the centrosome and relocating to the membrane of the cell nucleus in which the DNA is stored. This process causes the centrosome to break down into the two centrioles of which it is composed, and this causes the cell to lose its ability to reproduce.
The FAU researchers have now investigated whether the state of centrosome integrity is regulated naturally in the animal kingdom in order to control the reproduction of certain cells.
The discovery that there is a natural process that regulates centrosome integrity in the cardiac muscle cells of mammals opens up a range of possibilities for future research.
Firstly, this observation provides a new starting point for attempts to stimulate the reproduction of cardiac muscle cells in humans to regenerate the heart. At the same time, centrosome integrity can be examined in order to find adult cardiac muscle cells that may have retained their ability to reproduce, which may enable new forms of medical treatment.
Finally, a detailed understanding of the mechanism could also help researchers to develop methods of inhibiting the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells.
The results are published in the high-profile journal eLife.