Human Heart Has Potential to Self-Repair After Cardiac Attack Using Specific Cells, Confirms New Study

When it comes to self-healing mechanisms, we are blessed with a body that can take care of itself. Scientists have been searching for the way the heart repairs itself after a seizure. They aim to reveal insights that will lead to more effective cardiovascular treatment. In new research, it is revealed that the body’s immune response and the lymphatic system (part of the immune system) are critical to the heart’s ability to repair itself after heart muscle damage. Uncovering the function performed by macrophages — specialized cells that can eliminate bacteria or generate beneficial inflammatory responses — was crucial to the study.

These macrophages release a specific type of protein called VEGFC as first responders on the scene after a heart attack. Researchers have discovered that macrophages, or immune cells that rush into the heart after an attack to “eat” injured or dead tissue, also produce vascular endothelial growth factor C (VEGFC), which aids healing by stimulating the development of new lymphatic capillaries.

Researchers describe it as the case of Jekyll and Hyde, with good macrophages making VEGFC and bad ones not making VEGFC but causing a pro-inflammatory response that can further injure the heart and surrounding tissues.

Dying cells must be cleaned out in order for the heart to repair itself completely, a process known as efferocytosis in which macrophages play a major role. The scientists discovered how the right kind of VEGFC-producing macrophages accomplished a proper repair task by studying the process in laboratory and animal cells.

“Our challenge now is to find a way to either administer VEGFC or coax these macrophages to induce more VEGFC, in order to speed up the heart’s repair process,” said pathologist Edward Thorpe of Northwestern University in Illinois.

The study results were reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigations.

Future studies could focus on ways to improve the number of beneficial macrophages in the heart while reducing – or even eliminating – the number of harmful macrophages, increasing the chances of successful recovery.

Northwestern University vascular scientist Guillermo Oliver said they were trying to figure out how heart failure develops after a heart attack so they can intervene early and get the heart back on track.

As scientists continue to advance their understanding of how cardiovascular disease occurs and how to better assess heart disease risk sooner, heart failure continues to kill large numbers of people worldwide each year.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: