Adults lack stem cells that can repair muscle after heart attack: Study

Along with findings of this study, know what stem cells are, where they are found and why they are essential for human health.

Heart muscle that is lost due to a heart attack cannot be replaced in adults.

Heart muscle that is lost due to a heart attack cannot be replaced in adults.

Heart stem cells that might repair the heart muscle after a heart attack do not exist in adults, say researchers after two decades of study.

Found in the human body’s organs, tissues, blood (even in the umbilical cord when a baby is born and menstrual blood) and immune system, the miraculous micro-organisms called stem cells have the potential to cure illnesses ranging from diabetes to Parkinson’s disease and even spinal damage.

This remarkable ability indisputably makes them precious in medical treatment.

How researchers divided heart cells

Researchers from the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands, the Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon in France and the Francis Crick Institute in London, generated a cell-by-cell map of all dividing cardiac cells before and after a heart attack using advanced molecular and genetic technologies.

What they found out about heart muscles

  • They recorded many types of cells divide upon damage in the mouse heart, but that none of these are capable of generating new heart muscle
  • During a heart attack or myocardial infarction, the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is cut off, and those muscles might die


Researchers and clinicians have previously searched for two decades for cardiac stem cells that are able to replace lost tissue by cell division.
A clinical trial started in 2015 to test a type of stem cell in the heart called c-kit cells, but it was called a halt in October 29 after Harvard Medical School retracted 31 papers upon which the trial was based.
The study offered scientific evidence to a decision made in October by the US health authorities to pause a clinical trial using stem cells to treat heart failure over concerns over the lack of ‘scientific foundations’ of trial, Xinhua news agency reported.
Many of the ‘false leads’ of past studies called those cells cardiac stem cells which turned out to produce blood vessels or immune cells, but never heart muscle, according to the new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In other words, heart muscle that is lost due to a heart attack cannot be replaced.

Fibroblasts and cardiac muscle

The researchers also found that connective tissue cells known as fibroblasts, intermingled with heart muscle cells, would respond vigorously to a myocardial infarction by undergoing multiple cell divisions.

Those fibroblasts in mice can produce scar tissue that replaces the lost cardiac muscle and holds together the congested area, but contains no muscle to improve the pump function of the heart, according to the study.

However, the scar tissue formation has its own function.

When the formation is blocked, the mice suffer from acute cardiac rupture.

Also read | Stem Cell Research: All about the lucrative career option for medical science lovers

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