After a heart attack, patients must create new heart muscle cells to heal. Harvard study shows that mice make more new heart muscle cells when they exercise compared to when they do not. This was true for both healthy mice and those that had experienced a heart attack. Findings demonstrate that one reason exercise is beneficial to health is that it increases the heart’s capacity to regenerate.
In a new study performed in mice, researchers from the Harvard Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (HSCRB), Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School (HMS), and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) uncovered one reason why exercise might be beneficial: it stimulates the heart to make new muscle cells, both under normal conditions and after a heart attack.
Published in Nature Communications on 25 April, the findings have implications for public health, physical education and the rehabilitation of cardiac patients.
The human heart has a relatively low capacity to regenerate itself. Young adults can renew around 1% of their heart muscle cells every year, and that rate decreases with age. Considering that losing heart cells is linked to heart failure, interventions that increase new heart cell formation have potential to prevent heart failure.