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New Research May Prevent Recurring Heart Attacks

Posted on October 1, 2018

Researchers at the University of Wurzburg have created beating cardiac muscle tissue for the first time with hopes of driving new treatments for heart attacks.

Heart attacks are a common cause of death in the United States, with 735,000 Americans experiencing a heart attack each year. Heart attacks usually occur as a consequence of cardiovascular disease, a condition that develops as a result of strain on the heart. Stress on the heart can develop because of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and irregular heartbeat.

Lifestyle factors such as obesity, alcoholism, living a sedentary lifestyle and smoking also cause strain on the heart and contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease.

While the country’s rate of heart attack is high, the rate of mortality after a heart attack has decreased. Improved preventative measures, early intervention and post-heart-attack rehabilitation have improved outcomes for many.

Although the risk of dying after a heart attack has decreased, a heart attack still leaves the heart damaged. During a heart attack, the heart muscle loses its supply of blood and oxygen, a situation that causes tissue death.

When an individual has a heart attack, the cardiac muscle tissue in the affected area dies. This leaves the heart muscle permanently scarred and weakened.

Scarring and weakening of the heart muscle can lead to subsequent heart attacks and increase an individual’s risk of death.

Individuals who have suffered a heart attack are at risk of a second heart attack.

This risk can lead to a situation known as sudden cardiac death. Heart attack sufferers are four times more likely to die from this condition than those who have not suffered a heart attack.

A second heart attack frequently occurs within just 30 days of the first heart attack.

Personal cell researchers have worked to restore cardiac muscle strength and function using personal cells but have not been successful in fully regenerating cardiac tissue with the capability of beating.

Until now.

The German researchers have found a particular type of personal cell in the walls of blood vessels with the ability to differentiate into heart muscle tissue when cultured. The researchers also found that the cells, which also live in the walls of the heart’s blood vessels, become active after a heart attack.

Although the specialized personal cells the German researchers studied became active after a heart attack, they proved unable to develop into cardiac muscle cells. Instead, these personal cells mix with scar tissue. Once the cells combine with the scar tissue, they are unable to grow into new cardiac muscle tissue.

Knowing this, the study authors approached the creation of new cardiac muscle tissue differently. Taking into consideration the natural inclination of the personal cells to mix with the scar tissue created after a heart attack, the researchers manipulated how the personal cells behaved inside the blood vessels of the heart.

Although they have only tested their research in the lab and on experimental animals, the personal cell scientists believe that developing a protocol to quickly treat those who suffer from a heart attack can both save lives and reduce the cost associated with post-heart attack care.


University of Würzburg. “Heart attack: Substitute muscle thanks to personal cells.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 September 2018.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart Disease Facts. 28 November 2017.


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