Acute myocardial infarction (MI), typically caused by coronary artery occlusion and ischemia, is a leading cause of death worldwide. For those fortunate enough to survive MI, necrotic heart muscle is replaced in the next few weeks by collagen-rich scar tissue. While the scar provides a rapid solution, it is not contractile and over the long term weakens the heart and increases risk for serious problems. The development of regenerative therapies that promote the survival or regeneration of destroyed heart muscle would be of enormous social and economic impact.
It has become clear that the heart does not possess a stem cell compartment of sufficient regenerative capacity to create significant amounts of new heart muscle. In nature, animals like zebrafish regenerate heart muscle effectively by direct division of cardiac muscle cells. At Duke, research laboratories are exploring how examples of heart regeneration like this occurs, and they are developing methods to reconstitute lost muscle, with the ultimate goal of endowing greater regenerative capacity to the human heart.
Nenad Bursac, Ph.D.
Department of Biomedical Engineering
3000 Science Drive, Hudson Hall – Engineering, Room 136
Durham, NC 27708
Ravi Karra, M.D.
Department of Medicine
406 Sands Building,
Durham, NC 27710
Ken Poss, Ph.D.
Department of Cell Biology
Box 3709, DUMC, Durham, NC 27710
Scientists, engineers and clinicians are working together at Duke University's Regeneration Next Initiative to learn how human tissue might be repaired and replaced, using the body's own innate biology. For now, a living, beating patch of heart muscle in a dish is a promising step forward.