GOOD NEWS: The heart can repair itself.

A team of scientists from the New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York found evidence of cell division in damaged cardiac muscles.

The cardiological breakthrough published in the June 7 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine contradicts the theory of the irreversibility of the damages of cardiac muscle cells, say after a heart attack.

The heart muscle is damaged when blood supply to the heart from the coronary artery is blocked. This triggers a myocardial infarction or a heart attack, leading to formation of infarcts or scars on the heart.

The researchers studied hearts taken from 13 subjects who have died 4 to 12 days after a heart attack and another 10 normal hearts for comparison.

Two areas of the heart were studied: the first was the one near the damaged area and the other far from the scarred area. The researchers looked for the presence of Ki-67, a protein present only during cell division.

Surprisingly, Ki-67 was present and cell division did occur highest next to the scarred areas.

Piero Anversa, head of the team of researchers, said the discovery proves that heart muscle cells can regenerate and possibly repair damage, which may be due to the presence of primitive heart cells, or stem cells that create new muscle cells.

In the future, the stem cells may form part of a treatment for patients who suffered an attack to stimulate the repair of the heart muscle. Stephen Roy O. Chua-Rojas

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