Researchers find gene mutation that may make heart cell regeneration possible

Image of heart muscle cells proliferating

In a paper published March 4 in Nature Communications, coauthored by Lincoln Shenje, M.D., Ph.D, assistant professor at the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute, researchers describe the first found gene mutation in humans that causes heart muscle cells to proliferate beyond birth. This mutation was discovered in a rare syndrome called ALMS1 that has been reported in less than 70 people in the past 50 years worldwide.

According to Dr. Shenje and colleagues, this discovery goes against widely accepted dogma that we have a finite number of heart muscle cells in our lifetimes. This finite number is especially problematic in post-heart attack patients that have lost enough heart muscle cells to initiate irreversible heart failure. Dr. Shenje began research on this project at Johns Hopkins and continued this line of work when he arrived at OHSU last summer. His laboratory at OHSU aims to study this mutation in order to develop therapies that stimulate heart muscle cells to regenerate after a heart attack in order to prevent heart failure, essentially creating a regenerating heart.