Zebrafish - do they hold the secret cure?

Researchers are studying fish which can repair their own hearts. 

Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are living with debilitating heart failure. They can’t regenerate their damaged hearts. But zebrafish can. If part of their heart is damaged they can repair it in a matter of weeks, just like we are able to mend a broken bone.  That’s why our Mending Broken Hearts Appeal is funding researchers to find out what their secret is. 

Dr Jana Koth

Dr Jana Koth, at the University of Oxford, is making incredibly detailed images of zebrafish hearts to understand how their hearts are formed. 

Because zebrafish are transparent early in their life cycle, it’s easy for researchers to see their hearts and blood vessels grow. Their hearts begin to develop after just 12 hours, and they reach adult size – about 3cm long – in about three months, so they can provide quick research results. 

Jana can stain the different types of cells different colours and watch how the heart forms. The heart starts out as one long tube and then twists and folds to become the shape we recognise. 

Dr Tim Chico

Dr Tim Chico is a consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield and also studies zebrafish. 

Dr Chico says: “We can switch off genes and see how the zebrafish regrows blood vessels to repair damage. If we could switch the right genes on in humans then we could live longer and survive better after a heart attack.” 

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