The other fish that can regenerate its heart


You may already know that the zebrafish can regenerate its heart when it gets damaged. Scientists have found another fish with similar powers and hope to harness it to help us mend broken hearts.

We have given scientists at University College London £300,000 to study this fish, which could help us come up with a way to mend hearts damaged by heart attack.

The science

An amazing species of fish – called Astyanax mexicanus – could help scientists come up with a way to mend broken hearts damaged by heart attack.

Heart muscle and blood vessel tissue can die after a heart attack which reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body – this is called heart failure. The condition can be debilitating and life-limiting.

With your support we have been able to fund research, at University College London, led by Dr Yoshiyuki Yamamoto and Dr Mathila Mommersteeg. These top scientists are interested in this fish, a close relative of the zebrafish, because it has the amazing ability to regenerate its heart tissue after damage. What’s unusual about Astyanax mexicanus is that it exists in two forms – sighted fish that live in rivers, and blind cavefish.

Despite being the same species, the river-dwelling fish can regenerate its heart tissue after damage – the cavefish cannot. Scientists want to understand the differences between these fish so they can learn more about what allows the river fish to mend its own heart.

The researchers will transplant the heart of each type of fish into the other and see if it is something in the heart itself that helps it to repair itself, or whether it's something else.

How does this research help heart patients?

Research like this helps provide clues towards finding a cure for heart failure. We are putting £50 million towards finding new ways of treating heart failure, following the most promising avenues of research that could help the 800,000 people affected by the condition in the UK.

Support heart research

Please donate to our Mending Broken Hearts Appeal so we can fund more life-saving research.