Simple Protein Patch May Restore Heart Tissue

Simple Protein Patch May Restore Heart Tissue Simple Protein Patch May Restore Heart Tissue

People with heart attacks may survive the initial attack, but it causes permanent damage to the organ in the form of scar tissue, which affects its ability to pump blood.

Scientists around the world are working on this problem, with hydrogels, human stem cells and even bioengineered tissue that sticks together like Velcro all offering possible solutions. A team of researchers has now developed a simple protein patch that restores animal hearts almost to normal function.

The team’s work was guided by earlier research indicating that the outside layer of the heart, called the epicardium, may be responsible for producing the compounds that regenerate heart muscle in fish. The effort was led by Prof. Pilar Ruiz-Lozano at Stanford University and involved scientists from the University of California, San Diego, reports

In studying epicardial cells, the team was able to demonstrate that they did indeed cause existing heart muscle cells, called cardiomyocytes, to multiply. Researchers then sought to determine whether a single compound might be driving the process. Using mass spectrometry, they uncovered more than 300 proteins as possible candidates, and eventually whittled this down to one using high-throughput assays.

Once the researchers identified Follistatin-like 1 (FSTL1) as the protein they had been searching for, they went on to develop a therapeutic patch made from collagen that incorporated this compound. The patch was designed to have the same elasticity as fetal heart tissue and gradually release the protein over time. It was applied to the surface of mouse and pig hearts that had suffered from attacks and was found to drive tissue regeneration. The team hopes to move to human clinical trials as soon as 2017. The research was published in the journal Nature.