Contrary to popular belief, the heart can actually repair itself by growing new cells after a heart attack. This surprising discovery was uncovered by researchers in New York and Italy. Dr. Piero Anversa and colleagues of the New York Medical College in Valhalla detected signs that heart muscle cells called myocytes continued to divide after a heart attack.
Anversa's team examined the hearts of 13 people who died within a few days of having a heart attack and compared them with 10 normal hearts. The researchers screened the tissue for the expression of Ki-67, a protein that is present only in dividing cells. The major finding of the study was that heart's capacity to regenerate myocytes increases immediately after a heart attack. The origin of these newly formed heart muscle cells can be traced back to stem cells.
This finding raises hope that it may be possible one day to induce cardiac stem cells to migrate to a damaged area of the heart to repair it with new cells. Dr. Anversa speculated that this could also be used to treat other condition that lead to heart failure through tissue damage, such as chronic high blood pressure.
The results point to increasing evidence that heart is not as incapable of regeneration as we once thought.