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'Love hormone' possesses heart-healing properties: Research
The neurohormone oxytocin is well-known for promoting social bonds and generating pleasurable feelings, for example from art, exercise, or sex. But the hormone has many other functions, such as the regulation of lactation and uterine contractions in females, and the regulation of ejaculation, sperm transport, and testosterone production in males.
Now, researchers from Michigan State University show that in zebrafish and human cell cultures, oxytocin has yet another, unsuspected, function: it stimulates stem cells derived from the heart's outer layer (epicardium) to migrate into its middle layer (myocardium) and there develop into cardiomyocytes, muscle cells that generate heart contractions. This discovery could one day be used to promote the regeneration of the human heart after a heart attack. The results are published in Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology.
"Here we show that oxytocin, a neuropeptide also known as the love hormone, is capable of activating heart repair mechanisms in injured hearts in zebrafish and human cell cultures, opening the door to potential new therapies for heart regeneration in humans," said Dr Aitor Aguirre, the study's senior author.
Cardiomyocytes typically die off in great numbers after a heart attack. Because they are highly specialized cells, they can't replenish themselves. But previous studies have shown that a subset of cells in the epicardium can undergo reprogramming to become stem-like cells, called Epicardium- derived Progenitor Cells (EpiPCs), which can regenerate not only cardiomyocytes, but also other types of heart cells.
Dr Aitor Aguirre et al,Oxytocin promotes epicardial cell activation and heart regeneration after cardiac injury, Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, DOI
B.Sc Life Sciences, M.Sc Biotechnology, B.Ed
Isra Zaman is a Life Science graduate from Daulat Ram College, Delhi University, and a postgraduate in Biotechnology from Amity University. She has a flair for writing, and her roles at Medicaldialogues include that of a Sr. content writer and a medical correspondent. Her news pieces cover recent discoveries and updates from the health and medicine sector. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.