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Why don't adult heart cells regenerate? A new Pitt study provides an explanation.

a blue and red illustration of the heart and surrounding circulatory system

While your skin and other organs can regenerate after being damaged, the same isn’t true of your heart. A new study led by Pitt researchers offers a potential explanation: as heart cells age, they quiet their communication with the cells around them. This change protects the cells from harm, but at the potential cost of preventing them from repairing themselves.

“This paper provides an explanation for why adult hearts do not regenerate themselves, but newborn mice and human hearts do,” said senior author Bernhard Kühn, professor of pediatrics and director of the Pediatric Institute for Heart Regeneration and Therapeutics in Pitt’s School of Medicine. “These findings are an important advance in fundamental understanding of how the heart develops with age and how it has evolved to cope with stress.” 

The study, published today in Developmental Cell, focused on pores in the nucleus, the part of a cell that protects DNA. The number of these pores decreased with age in the heart cells of mice, the team showed, and mice with fewer nuclear pores were less vulnerable to a type of stress response that can cause heart failure.

Read more about the study.