Insight into the control of repairing damaged heart muscle
In the first few days and weeks of human – or any other vertebrate animal – development, well before birth, one particular group of cells mobilise and spread around the growing mass, ready to initiate the formation of distinct body parts. These neural crest cells are crucial, and common across species. One area they’ve been seen at work in fish and amphibians is the heart, but it wasn’t clear if the same was true for mammals like us. To investigate, researchers tracked the cells throughout development in living animals, and found that they do contribute to heart ventricles in mice (pictured, with heart cells in green and those derived from neural crest cells in pink), and that in zebrafish they aid growth and repair even in adults. If this ability exists in humans as well, it could be an inbuilt tool for repair following a heart attack.
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