The protein, modulating the reversion of heart muscle cells and promoting self-healing powers of the heart, has been identified by scientists.
The scientists initially noticed the high concentration of oncostatin M in tissue samples from the hearts of patients suffering from myocardial infarction, and it is already known that this protein is responsible for the dedifferentiation of different cell types.
Thomas Braun's research group at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim treated cultivated heart muscle cells with oncostatin M in the laboratory and were then able to trace the regression of the cells live under the microscope.
"Based on certain changes in the cells, we were able to see that almost all heart muscle cells had been dedifferentiated within six days of treatment with oncostatin M," Braun said.
"We were also able to demonstrate the presence of various stem cell markers in the cells. This should be understood as an indicator that these cells had been switched to a repair mode," he said.
Using a mouse infarct model, the researchers succeeded in demonstrating that oncostatin M actually does stimulate the repair of damaged heart muscle tissue as presumed.
One of the two test groups had been modified genetically in advance to ensure that the oncostatin M could not have any effect in these animals.
"The difference between the two groups was astonishing. Whereas in the group in which oncostatin M could take effect almost all animals were still alive after four weeks, 40 percent of the genetically modified mice had died from the effects of the infarction," Braun said.
The reason for this was that oncostatin M ensured clearly quantifiable better cardiac function in the unmodified animals.