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For heart repair, call RNA

After attack, small molecules help contracting cells regenerate in mice

2:03pm, March 18, 2015
cardiac muscle cells

CHANGE OF HEART  Researchers used small RNA molecules to make mouse cardiac muscle cells (such as this one highlighted in green and blue) start dividing again after a heart attack. 

When people suffer a heart attack, they can’t regrow muscle cells that have died after being deprived of oxygen. But mice injected with small RNA molecules following heart attacks do regenerate cardiac muscle, researchers report in the March 18 Science Translational Medicine.

Scientists knew that a cluster of microRNAs, tiny molecules that keep genes from being turned on, are active in animal embryos at the same time that heart cells grow and divide. The RNA suppresses signals that tell organs to stop making new cells, a team of American and Chinese researchers found.

When the researchers deleted the microRNA group in mouse embryos, the rodents had less cell growth during the early stages of development. Making the microRNAs more active led to mice born with overlarge hearts.

The researchers then switched on production of the RNA molecules in adult mice that had suffered

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