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‘A gene' that repairs heart tissue post-heart attack is discovered in Bologna

Updated: May 16, 2023

The study coordinated by Researcher Gabriele D’Uva was published in “Nature Cardiovascular Research”

A gene that repairs heart tissue post-heart attack is discovered in Bologna

A very recent study by the University of Bologna, published in the journal “Nature Cardiovascular Research”, and coordinated by Dr. Gabriele D’Uva, has identified a gene capable of repairing heart tissue damaged following a heart attack.

The heart muscle does not regenerate because of glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoid is a class of steroid hormones that slows down the regenerative capacity, and, “when inhibited”, as demonstrated by the team of scholars, shows promising outcomes in repairing damaged heart tissue.

This class of hormones plays an important role in stress management, metabolic regulation, and full differentiation of heart cells and was ‘pinned on’ by the team of researchers from the University of Bologna, Gabriele D’Uva, Nicola Pianca, and Francesca Sacchi.

This international group of scientists has obtained extraordinary results. The ability of the heart muscle to regenerate is a consequence of the very slow proliferation of heart muscle cells and the absence of a significant role of stem cells in this tissue.

To reverse this “regenerative inability”, the researchers performed heart tissue analysis, exposing neonatal heart muscle cells to Glucocorticoid and noting how they lost their proliferative capacity. Subsequently, further analysis of heart tissue was performed on infants during their first week of life, with the outcome of identifying an increase in Glucocorticoids.

Hence, the hypothesis might be that Glucocorticoids were responsible for the maturation of heart cells “to the detriment” of their replication and regenerative capacity. Thus, a subsequent glucocorticoid "receptor deletion" might work by "increasing the ability of heart muscle cells to replicate", promoting the process of heart regeneration following myocardial infarction OR a heart attack.

Excellent results were obtained by administering a drug inhibitor of the “GR receptor”, already approved and in clinical use. The discovery of this receptor will undoubtedly push to further test synergistic effects with other drugs in order to stimulate cardiac regeneration, thereby ultimately helping millions of patients around the world.

This blog was first published in La Voce Di New York, click here to read.

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