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Shanghai scientists make potential regenerative medicine breakthrough

Scientists in Shanghai have discovered that more than 60 percent of coronary arteries in the heart form de novo, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatments in regenerative medicine.

The discovery, published today in the journal Science, means most coronary arteries are formed after birth, unlike previously thought, said Zhou Bin, the study’s lead scientist.

“Traditionally, doctors believed that coronary arteries are first established during fetal development, with more growing after birth. Now we find vessels can be newly formed from endocardial stem cells after birth. This will provide novel insight into regenerative medicine studies for the treatment of patients with heart disease due to blocked arteries,” Zhou said.

The endocardium is a thin, smooth membrane that lines the inside of the chambers of the heart and forms the surface of the valves.

“My team’s next task is to study how to guide certain types of stem cells in the heart to grow into new coronary arteries,” he said.

The discovery also offers potential new treatment options for patients with myocardial infarction, some congenital heart disease and those with artificial hearts, said scientists from the Institute for Nutritional Sciences under the Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Cardiovascular disease is the world’s top killer, responsible for nearly 30 percent of all deaths.



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