Skin and bones can heal themselves, but broken hearts are not so easily mended. Our heart is made up of two types of cells, fibroblasts for structure and muscle cells that do the beating. After a heart attack, muscle cells die and, in a struggle to repair the damage, fibroblasts multiply. But they make the heart tissue thicker and less flexible, imperilling the vital pump even further. Now, researchers studying mouse heart cells (pictured), have found that adding proteins which activate certain genes can turn fibroblasts into beating muscle cells (dyed red). What’s more, these converted cells integrate into existing heart muscle. And they form new junctions with existing cells (green bands), which means they can all beat in unison. This discovery brings hope for new ways to treat damaged hearts.
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