The concept of regenerative medicine is interesting. Of
course, a technique that uses your body to heal itself rather than surgical
procedures or even internal medications would be an ideal form of medicine, one
that scientists continue to work on through stem cell research. A study from
Harvard University and Karolinska Institutet demonstrated a breakthrough in
prospective regenerative treatments in cases of a heart attack.
“This is the beginning of using the heart as a factory to
produce growth factors for specific families of cardiovascular stem cells, and
suggests that it may be possible to generate new heart parts without delivering
any new cells to the heart itself,” said Kenneth Chien, MD, PhD, professor at
both Harvard University and the Karolinska Intitutet, in a recent story about the
study from Medical News Today (MNT).
The research team, led by Chien, detailed the study in Nature Biotechnology. According to the
MNT article, the study used a synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA), which was
modified to bypass the body’s defense system, to introduce a known growth
factor called VEGFA. VEGFA can stop the stem cells already available in the
heart from becoming muscle tissue and convert them to form coronary vessels
instead. The introduction of the modified mRNA essentially tricked the heart
into producing more VEFA, which then allowed it to regenerate its damaged parts
following a heart attack.
“This moves us very close to clinical studies to regenerate
cardiovascular tissues with a single chemical agent without the need for
injecting any additional cells into the hearts,” continued Chien in the MNT
In the MNT story, Chien further explained that, although the
study stood out as a breakthrough for stem cell research and regenerative
medicine, it is still in its early stages and faces challenges in transitioning
from test mice, where it is currently being performed, to other animals. He
also noted that eventually a new, more efficient technique would eventually
need to be developed to deliver the synthetic mRNA into the heart. Despite only
being in its early stages, however, the new technique is a promising step for the
recovery of post-heart attack patients.