Understanding zebrafish heart repair as a step towards heart tissue regeneration in people

The role of Mef2 in adult zebrafish heart regeneration

Yaniv Hinits (lead researcher)

King's College London

Start date: 01 July 2014 (Duration 3 years)

People who survive a heart attack may have heart tissue damage that affects their quality of life. Understanding what proteins allow human heart cells to multiply and regenerate, as they do in fish, could help develop drugs that help our hearts to heal themselves after injury.

If a person has a heart attack, blood supply and oxygen supply to the heart muscle is blocked and the tissue becomes damaged or dies, and the heart is not able to pump as efficiently. In humans, the heart cannot repair itself. But zebrafish can repair their hearts - heart muscle cells near the damaged area lose their muscle properties and revert back to stem cells, which can repair the heart tissue. Scientists know that a protein called Mef2 is needed to turn zebrafish stem cells into heart muscle cells.

Dr Yaniv Hinits and colleagues believe that zebrafish muscle cells near wounds are able to turn Mef2 on and off – turning Mef2 off to revert to stem cells, before growing and turning Mef2 back on to repair the heart. Their team has been awarded a grant to find out if controlling Mef 2 might hold the key to heart muscle repair in humans. They will study Mef2 in detail, find out if it can heal the heart after injury, and test if other proteins thought to influence recovery after heart attack are working through Mef2. This work may reveal a new way to repair heart tissue when it has become damaged.

Project details

Grant amount £265,335
Grant type Project Grant
Start Date 01 July 2014
Duration 3 years
Reference PG/14/12/30664
Status In progress

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