UCLA team discovers heart regeneration pathway in stem cells

RBFox1 regulates postnatal cardiomyocyte maturation.


A team from UCLA has found a way to help heart muscle cells grow up. They discovered an essential internal control that makes immature heart cells turn into mature ones. This could lead to better treatments for heart problems.

In collaboration with Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore and other partners, researchers found a significant increase in the RNA splicing regulator, RBFox1, in adult heart cells compared to newborns in a preclinical model. This increase in RBFox1 during heart cell maturation was further validated by examining existing single-cell data.

Study lead Jijun Huang, who conducted this research during his postdoctoral training in anesthesiology at UCLA, said, “This is the first piece of evidence suggesting that RNA splicing control plays a vital role in postnatal heart cell maturation. While RBFox1 alone may not be sufficient to push mature fetal heart muscle cells to fully matured adult cells, our findings uncover a new RNA-based internal network that can substantially drive this maturation process beyond other available approaches.”

How heart muscle cells change as they grow from birth to adulthood needs to be better. We don’t know precisely how a particular process involving RBFox1 and RNA affects these changes, but we have some evidence that it’s essential. This discovery could lead to new treatments for heart problems, but more research is needed.

Senior author Yibin Wang, the Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disorders Program director at Duke-NUS, said, “For the first time, we’ve shown that by altering RNA splicing, we can encourage the significant maturation of heart cells derived from human stem cells.”

In conclusion, the findings from this UCLA-led study represent a significant stride forward in pursuing regenerative therapies for heart damage. The discovery of a stem-cell-derived mechanism holds immense promise for developing innovative treatments. 

This breakthrough opens new avenues for regenerative medicine, offering hope to those affected by heart injuries and diseases. While further research is needed to translate these findings into practical therapies, the potential for transforming the landscape of cardiac care and enhancing the quality of life for patients with heart damage is substantial.

Journal reference:

  1. Jijun Huang, Josh Z. Lee et al., Regulation of Postnatal Cardiomyocyte Maturation by an RNA Splicing Regulator RBFox1. Circulation. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.122.061602.
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