The heart is the vital muscle that pumps life into our body, so understanding if and how it could regenerate after injury would be a major medical breakthrough. One cell type, characterised by an active c-kit gene, is thought to be able to give rise to new muscle cells; in fact injections of 'c-kit cells' are already being used to boost regeneration in patients recovering from a heart attack. As seen in this section from a mouse heart, with its cell nuclei stained blue, c-kit-expressing cells (in green) are dotted around the organ. However, recent research suggests that they actually generate very few cardiac muscle cells during development. Instead, most c-kit-expressing cells become endothelial cells, forming the lining between the muscle and the bloodstream. While 'c-kit cell' injections nevertheless appear to enhance recovery, the search for a means of truly healing the heart is still on.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
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.