A preclinical study shows that the protein calcineurin helps block the heart muscle’s ability to regenerate after the first week of life, according to a study in the journal Nature. Researchers say the discovery could one day be used as a treatment that reverses this process.
Calcineurin regulates two proteins called Meis1, which has previously been shown to prevent heart cells from dividing, and Hoxb13. When both genes for Meis1 and Hoxb13 were deleted, researchers noticed that the hearts of adult mice after suffering a heart attack could pump blood quickly and to near-normal levels. Further experiments showed that blocking calcineurin could prolong the heart cell’s ability to divide and repair damaged heart tissue.
Researchers hope this discovery will offer new strategies for repairing hearts damaged by heart attacks, high blood pressure, viruses and more. The study was funded by NHLBI.