Improving cardiac regeneration after injury: Are we a step closer?



During regeneration, lost functional tissue can, in general, be replaced by different mechanisms, including proliferation of terminally differentiated cells or through differentiation of resident stem cells. It is a well-accepted dogma that the mammalian heart cannot efficiently regenerate upon injury as a consequence of insufficient oxygen supply. This is in sharp contrast to the hearts of adult zebrafish or newts that are able to replace lost ventricular tissue. Novel data indicate that the young murine heart also has the ability to regenerate within the first week after birth using mechanisms apparently quite similar to those observed in fish. This now provides us with a good starting point to identify the molecular mechanisms that led to the loss of the regenerative capacity of the adult mammalian heart. These future studies will also indicate whether it will be possible to reawaken the regenerative capability of cardiomyocytes in the human heart by treatment with selected pharmaceuticals.