Throughout life our bodies renew and repair damaged tissue by producing new cells to replace old. But hearts are different, and most heart damage is irreparable. Shortly after birth, most cardiac cells stop dividing, and heart growth continues only because individual cells expand in size. Scientists are now looking for ways to regenerate heart tissue using highly sensitive microscopy techniques to locate dividing cells in heart fragments smaller than the width of a human hair (each pictured stained and unstained). They’ve spotted dividing heart cells (appearing greeny-blue in the left and centre sections) in samples from newborns to adolescents. And, for the first time, have demonstrated that heart cell numbers triple between birth and adulthood. If, as the study suggests, children and adolescents can repair damage to their hearts, further studies might help identify ways to keep us all young at heart.
Written by Caroline Cross
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.