Researchers have discovered a previously unidentified cell population which could lead to new treatments for patients with injured hearts.
The cell, described in the journal Immunity, was discovered in the pericardial fluid found in the sac around the heart of a mouse with heart injury.
The researchers from the University of Calgary in Canada found that a specific cell, a Gata6+ pericardial cavity macrophage, helps heal an injured heart in mice.
The same cells were also found within the human pericardium of people with injured hearts, confirming that the repair cells offer the promise of a new therapy for patients with heart disease.
“Our discovery of a new cell that can help heal injured heart muscle will open the door to new therapies and hope for the millions of people who suffer from heart disease,” said Paul Fedak, a professor at the University of Calgary.
“The possibilities for further discovery and innovative new therapies are exciting and important,” said Fedak.
Heart doctors had never before explored the possibility that cells just outside the heart could participate in healing and repair of hearts after injury, researchers said.
Unlike other organs, the heart has a very limited capacity to repair itself which is why heart disease is the number one cause of death in North America, they said.
“We always knew that the heart sits inside a sac filled with a strange fluid,” said Fedak.
“Now we know that this pericardial fluid is rich with healing cells. These cells may hold the secret to repair and regeneration of new heart muscle,” he said.