Nav: Home

Hearts and stripes: A tiny fish offers clues to regenerating damaged cardiac tissue

June 25, 2019

Research into the hearts of zebrafish, a pet shop staple marked by their eponymous stripes, has shed light on ways the human heart muscle could be healed following damage.

A team of researchers led by Neil Chi, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, and Manuel Galvez-Santisteban, PhD, a postdoctoral scientist working alongside him, have pinpointed a signaling pathway in zebrafish heart cells that leads to the regeneration of damaged tissue. The findings are published in the June 25, 2019 issue of eLife.

When the hearts of zebrafish are injured, altered blood flow sends a signal to reprogram the muscle and regenerate their cells. "Our findings show how the heart senses and adaptively responds to environmental changes caused by injury," said Chi, "and provide insight into how flow-mediated mechanisms may regulate heart cell reprograming and heart regeneration."

These same signaling pathways also exist in mammals, suggesting the findings could provide insights and perhaps ways to repair damaged tissue in humans after a heart attack or similar catastrophic cardiac events.

Researchers commonly use zebrafish -- a small tropical minnow fish -- to study blood and muscle development because they employ many of the same mechanisms to make cells that humans do, but they are translucent as they develop, which makes it much easier to chronicle cell development and function.

Chi and colleagues focused on cardiomyocytes, cardiac muscle cells that possess the ability to contract and maintain the pump function of the heart. However, in order for cardiomyocytes to reprogram and regenerate the heart after injury, cardiomyocytes rely upon signaling cues activated by changes in blood flow.

Researchers monitored a specific heart development molecule called Notch in zebrafish to see how it reacted after injury to a fish's heart. They found that Notch activity peaked one day after injury, but then dipped as the heart muscle regenerated. Within four days, damaged fish hearts were back to normal. When researchers blocked Notch, however, heart cell growth in the fish was also blocked, cells were unable to reprogram themselves and the damage was not repaired.

The scientists then looked at blood flow after a heart injury to see if injury had a direct effect on that blood flow and, in turn, activation of Notch. Their focus this time was on Klf2a, a molecule that activates certain genes when blood flow changes. The more blood flow was disrupted, the researchers found, the higher the levels of Klf2a.

The scientists also identified three other molecules -- Trpv4, BMP and Erbb2 -- that appeared connected to heart reprogramming and blood flow shifts. Levels and activity in all three changed in response to heart injury.

Chi said the next step is to take their investigation out of the water and onto land.

"Future studies are now needed to explore whether blood flow forces may affect mammals, such as mice, and to reveal new mechanisms that could take us closer to one day being able to regenerate the human heart," said Chi.

University of California - San Diego

Related Blood Flow Articles:

Blood flow recovers faster than brain in micro strokes
Work by a Rice neurobiologist shows that increased blood flow to the brain is not an accurate indicator of neuronal recovery after a microscopic stroke.
Exercise improves memory, boosts blood flow to brain
Scientists have collected plenty of evidence linking exercise to brain health, with some research suggesting fitness may even improve memory.
3D VR blood flow to improve cardiovascular care
Biomedical engineers are developing a massive fluid dynamics simulator that can model blood flow through the full human arterial system at subcellular resolution.
MRI shows blood flow differs in men and women
Healthy men and women have different blood flow characteristics in their hearts, according to a new study.
Brain blood flow sensor discovery could aid treatments for high blood pressure & dementia
A study led by researchers at UCL has discovered the mechanism that allows the brain to monitor its own blood supply, a finding in rats which may help to find new treatments for human conditions including hypertension (high blood pressure) and dementia.
Blood flow monitor could save lives
A tiny fibre-optic sensor has the potential to save lives in open heart surgery, and even during surgery on pre-term babies.
Changes in blood flow tell heart cells to regenerate
Altered blood flow resulting from heart injury switches on a communication cascade that reprograms heart cells and leads to heart regeneration in zebrafish.
Blood flow command center discovered in the brain
An international team of researchers has discovered a group of cells in the brain that may function as a 'master-controller' for the cardiovascular system, orchestrating the control of blood flow to different parts of the body.
Researchers closer to new Alzheimer's therapy with brain blood flow discovery
By discovering the culprit behind decreased blood flow in the brain of people with Alzheimer's, biomedical engineers at Cornell University have made possible promising new therapies for the disease.
In vitro grafts increase blood flow in infarcted rat hearts
Advances in stem cell research offer hope for treatments that could help patients regrow heart muscle tissue after heart attacks, a key to patients achieving more complete recoveries.
More Blood Flow News and Blood Flow Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.