The heart is one of the busiest organs in the body. Pumping liters of blood non-stop during one’s entire live, any damage to its physical condition tends to be fatal. Myocardial infarctions are common and come in varying levels of severity. At their worst, they cause irreversible damage to the heart's tissue, jeopardizing the whole organ. Currently, there is no way to restore lost heart function after a devastating heart attack because the damaged tissue cannot be successfully repaired. The only option for many is a heart transplant, which has its own risks and complications.
However, a research paper recently published in the Regenerative Medicine journal documents the first ever account of heart tissue regeneration and function restoration in animals with a drug treatment. If the drug proves equally effective in human trials, its impact in cardiovascular epidemiology could be tremendous.
Dr. Viravuth P. Yin began experimenting with the MSI-1436 drug on zebrafish – a creature with the ability to regenerate almost any body part. After observing that the drug dramatically boosted the animal's regenerative capacity, the Ph.D scientist working at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory began experimenting with mice. After artificially inducing heart attacks in the mice, Yin observed that the drug triggered massive cell proliferation of heart muscle tissue and reduced the damage (scarring and ventricular wall thinning) caused by the heart attacks, helping to significantly improve heart function. Given that mice share the genetic heritage of regenerative processes with humans, these results are being interpreted by scientists as promising hints of the drug's potentially revolutionary applications in human health.
Scientists are so optimistic about MSI-1436 that they have launched a spinoff of the non-profit research institution called Novo Biosciences. Through this outfit, DR. Yin and his research colleagues hope to pave the way for human trials. They highlight the fact that the drug already has well-defined tolerance limits in humans, which are several times higher than the dosage used to boost tissue regeneration in zebrafish. An additional step before testing the drug in humans will be a trial on pigs because their heart is the most similar to the human heart.
MDI Biological Laboratory has been actively researching for potential drugs that could trigger tissue regeneration. Much of the institution's progress on this front is owed to the work of Dr. Viravuth Yin, who has a different approach from those traditionally used by other research enterprises. Yin aims to reverse engineer the genetic mechanisms of regeneration by studying animals that actively use the ability to regenerate tissue.
The end goal is pioneering the activation of regenerative processes in humans through medication. This revolutionary concept would save millions of people succumbing to cardiovascular diseases every year.