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New research shows the heart can regenerate

5:29 PM, Dec 14, 2010   |    comments
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(WZZM) - There may soon come a time when heart transplants are obsolete.  New research proves the heart can regenerate itself.

Until now it was never thought that the heart could regenerate new cells but now there is proof that it can what's left to be discovered is how.

When you have a heart attack part of your heart tissue dies and until recently it was thought by cardiologists that it could never be regenerated, "The belief was that for the most part your organs can't produce more cells."  Dr. Daniel West is a cardiologist at West Shore Cardiology.  He's excited about a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health that has discovered heart stem cells regenerating.  "Some of the studies before talked about .4% or 1% of these cells would turn over and in a 100 year old person in this study we're talking about 40%. turnover rate, so significantly higher than we ever anticipated," says West.

So what does that mean for you and me?

It could mean a heart that's been damaged may be able to regain some or all of it's healthy tissue.  "Now we know that we do produce new cells and what we need to learn is how the body controls that production of new cells," which West says may one day eliminate the need for heart transplants.  "If you could bring in new heart muscle cells through some process as yet to be discovered most of the patients that require heart transplants wouldn't require it.  This would be an extremely exciting advancement in cardiology," says West. 

The research is very preliminary and much more needs to be discovered.  And the possibility of growing new heart tissue is still decades away.  

By Valerie Lego

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