A new study has found a progenitor cell type that can repair the damaged arteries. Stanford University scientists have argued that it is important to first understand how the vessels of the healthy heart are built up.
Senior author Dr. Katharina Volz, the first PhD graduate in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford University, said if we want to regenerate diseased hearts, we need to first understand how the heart creates the building blocks of healthy coronary arteries.
Kristy Red-Horse from the Department of Biological Sciences opined that the current methods to grow new blood vessels in the heart stimulate fine blood vessels rather than re-establishing the strong supply of blood provided by the main arteries.
The researchers have found that the smooth muscle of the arteries is derived from cells called pericytes. The small capillary blood vessels throughout the developing heart are covered in pericytes. They receive signals through a protein called Notch 3 to differentiate and form the smooth muscle covering needed for larger artery walls.
Pericytes are also found throughout the adult heart which suggests that they could be used to trigger a self-repair mechanism.
The team is now investigating whether pericytes differentiate into smooth muscle as part of this process and whether it can be activated or sped up by introducing Notch 3 signalling molecules.
The study is published in the journal ELIFE.