Certain fish (zebrafish) and amphibians have been known to have the capacity for cardiac regeneration throughout life. However, it is not the same case for the adult mammalian heart.
Recently the BHF have been talking a lot about the regenerative capacity of zebrafish and have made a huge new initiative to study how the zebrafish achieves its heart regenerative capacity.
However, a new study in the journal Science from the University of Texas South-western Medical Center has brought the issue a little closer to home. They have shown that young mice not older than 7 days old are able to regenerate sections of their hearts after damage.
This regenerative process was proven to be different from the usual repair process of the heart after it has become damaged i.e. that the heart could repair itself fully and not have impaired function.
Thus, it seems that for a brief period after birth, mammalian heart has the capacity to regenerate.
This is a wonderful finding and hopefully future research may be able to determine how the young heart keeps its regenerative ability after birth. Ideally future research would extend into understanding how we may be able to therapeutically manipulate damaged hearts, allowing them to regenerate after cardiac injury.
This research could open a completely new avenue for patients who have suffered heart attacks (also known as myocardial infarctions) and other damage to the heart to recover better after these cardiac events.
To read more about Zebrafish at the BHF
To read more about the young mouse heart SCIENCE