Repairing a damaged heart may soon be possible using a newly discovered gene combination developed by scientists at Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, following their study on stem cells.
The research team led by Dr Benoit Bruneau has found that the combination of three genes can turn nonmuscle cells into beating heart cells.
"The heart has very little regenerative capacity after it has been damaged," said Nature magazine quoted Bruneau as saying.
"With heart disease the leading cause of death in the Western world, this is a significant first step in understanding how we might create new cells to repair a damaged heart," he added.
In the study conducted using mouse model, Bruneau and postdoctoral fellow Jun K. Takeuchi added different combinations of transcription factors to mouse cells, of which these two appeared key in pushing cells into heart cells, however, they were not enough.
The three proteins, together, direct the differentiation of mouse embryonic cells into beating heart cells.
They are a mix of transcription factors, which bind to DNA and influence gene expression, and a heart-specific chromatin-remodelling protein.
"When we finally identified the key factor that could work with GATA4 and TBX5 to turn cells into beating heart cells, it was somewhat of a surprise to us," Bruneau added.