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With endurance sports, cardiac muscle cells believed to be lost can be renewed
For a long time, doctors assumed that almost no new muscle cells would develop in a full-grown heart. Damage to the heart, for example caused by a heart attack, is therefore classified as irreversible. A German research team has now shown that this statement is not entirely true. They were able to prove that the right training can increase the number of newly formed heart muscle cells.
The scientific team around the Heidelberg cardiologist Dr. med. Carolin Lerchenmüller recently showed in a study that damage to the heart is not quite as definitive as previously thought. In series of experiments with mice, the researchers documented how cardiac muscle cells that were believed to be lost could be regenerated with the right endurance training. The results were presented in the renowned journal "Nature Communications".
People believed dead live longer
A heart attack often affects the heart. It is not uncommon for a heart failure to develop after the infarction, which is considered irreversible and is responsible for a high number of deaths. According to the researchers from Heidelberg, the hearts of mammals (including humans) have the weakness that they can hardly regenerate after they have fully grown. Now the team around cardiologist Lerchenmüller showed that there are methods to increase the regenerative power of the heart.
Endurance sports regenerate the heart
In studies on mice, the researchers from Heidelberg showed that the number of newly formed heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) can be increased significantly through endurance sports. The researchers divided mice into two different groups. One group received wheels, the other did not. All mice were given an infusion that could be used to distinguish newly formed cells from existing ones using mass spectrometry. After eight weeks it was found that the group with the impellers had regenerated four times as many cardiac muscle cells as the animals without the impeller. On average, the mice ran 5.5 kilometers a day with an impeller.
Why endurance strengthens your heart
In addition, the research team found a connection between physical activity and cardiac muscle regeneration. They identified a micro-RNA called miR-222, which is increasingly produced during endurance sports. Micro-RNAs consist of building blocks of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and are significantly involved in the regulation of genes by switching off certain genes. Micro-RNAs were only discovered in 1993 and have been of great interest in biomedical research since then. Many researchers see the building blocks as a key to developing new therapies for numerous diseases.
Without miR-222 there was no new formation
In further experiments, the research group blocked the miR-222 microRNA in the mice. As a result, the positive effect of sporting activity was lost. Despite training with running bikes, the mice did not develop any new heart muscle cells. Further studies will have to examine whether this finding will lead to a new approach to drug-based support for the regeneration process.
The Heidelberg research group received a 10,000 euro prize from the German Foundation for Internal Medicine (DSIM) for the study. "The work shows that the formation of new cardiomyocytes can be increased in a framework that can be health-relevant," said Professor Dr. Jürgen Schölmerich, the chairman of the DSIM, in a press release on the award ceremony. (vb)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Exercise induces new cardiomyocyte generation in the adult mammalian heart