FEB 23, 2018 5:33 AM PST

Glowing Proteins Help Scientists Learn from the Embryonic Heart

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

How are new heart cells created? Is the adult heart capable of repairing itself after a heart attack? How can scientists intervene to improve recovery? University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) scientists plan to answer all of these questions, but in their new Nature Communication study, they start with the first query.

Researchers used four different fluorescent-colored proteins to determine the origin of cardiomyocytes in mice. Credit: UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center/Nature Communications

A colorful new experiment used fluorescent proteins to study the development of heart muscle cells, called cardiomyocytes, as they grow in mouse embryos. The end game? Regenerate heart tissue in human adults to improve recovery after traumatic cardiac events like heart attack.

"Our ultimate goal is to be able to regenerate cardiomyocytes after an injury like a heart attack," explained Dr. Reza Ardehali. "But we're first trying to learn from the embryonic heart."

Ardehali and the other researchers chose to study cardiomyocytes because they are the main population of cells in the heart negatively impacted by a heart attacking, dying by the masses without an adequate supply of blood carrying oxygen and nutrients.

Cardiomyocytes are replaced, but not by other cardiomyocytes. Scar tissue takes its place, and the heart has to manage its regular duties but with less cells to get the job done. Studies show that in the adult heart, cardiomyocytes do not regenerate themselves; once they’re gone, they’re gone.

The research team from UCLA studied four different fluorescently-colored proteins to learn more about where cardiomyocytes came from in mouse embryos as they grew. Using fluorescent proteins meant that when cells divide, the daughter cells produced as a result maintain the same color. Researchers could easily keep track of the generations.

"Compared to previous labeling methods that use only one or two different colors, this method allows us distinguish the role of different cells much more clearly,” explained co-first author Ngoc Nguyen.

Cardiomyocytes and cardiac progenitor cells were among the types of cells labeled with fluorescent proteins. Progenitor cells are the “early descendents” of cells, capable of differentiating into different cell types. Researchers watched the colors change as they learned more about where cardiomyocytes were being produced during embryonic development.

They found that early in the development process, cardiomyocytes were more likely to originate from cardiac progenitor cells as opposed to other cardiomyocytes. However, cardiac progenitor cells gradually lose their ability to create new cardiomyocytes as development progresses. This is opposed to what scientists previously believed to be an abrupt transition from productive to unproductive progenitor cells.

"If we can determine how these cardiomyocytes proliferate, we hope to harness that regenerative potential for the treatment of heart disease in humans," Nguyen said.

Source: University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences, Boston Children’s Hospital

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
FEB 02, 2021
Cardiology
Investigating a Stress Protein's Relation to Heart Failure
FEB 02, 2021
Investigating a Stress Protein's Relation to Heart Failure
As medicine advances, the world’s population gradually becomes older and older. Cardiovascular disease becomes mor ...
MAR 09, 2021
Cardiology
A Lifestyle Change Could Reduce a Diabetic's Cardiovascular Risk
MAR 09, 2021
A Lifestyle Change Could Reduce a Diabetic's Cardiovascular Risk
Nowadays, everyone thinks there is a pill or gummy that will fix everything. That may be true for the occasional headach ...
MAR 15, 2021
Cardiology
'Silent' Heart Attacks Linked to Significant Increase in Stroke Risk
MAR 15, 2021
'Silent' Heart Attacks Linked to Significant Increase in Stroke Risk
Silent heart attacks can happen, in which blood flow to the heart is blocked, and heart tissue may be damaged, but they ...
MAY 19, 2021
Health & Medicine
Who Ages Better, Men or Women?
MAY 19, 2021
Who Ages Better, Men or Women?
The answer depends on what's considered more important – quantity or quality of years?  Previous studies ...
JUL 07, 2021
Cardiology
Wealth Changes Linked to Heart Health Differences
JUL 07, 2021
Wealth Changes Linked to Heart Health Differences
Changes in a person's financial state have been recognized as a major cause of stress . Now researchers have found inves ...
JUL 29, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Obesity May Not Always Lead to Disease
JUL 29, 2021
Obesity May Not Always Lead to Disease
Some gene variants might be protecting people from the negative health effects of obesity.
Loading Comments...