We tend to know hormones by the name of one feeling: the hormone of happiness, stress, love… However, these feelings are only the result of one of the many processes in which they interfere. However, it is quite poetic that oxytocinknown as love hormonemay I help heal a broken heart. In the most literal sense.

This is the conclusion of a study recently published in Frontiers of Cell Biology and Developmental Biology hand in hand with scientists Michigan State University. In it, they show, both in zebrafish and laboratory-grown human heart cells, that exposure to this hormone can help regenerate heart cells after a myocardial infarction.

Logically, it would still be necessary to test whether the same thing happens in humans, and not just in cell cultures. However, if it were proven, it would be a very interesting discovery, since the use of oxytocin in medicine is quite common in processes such as, for example, provoking contractions in pregnant women.

Oxytocin: the hormone of love

If oxytocin is known as the love hormone, it is because it plays a key role in attachment process. But not only in affection between two lovers. Also in what happens between mothers, fathers and children, or even between friends.

In addition, he is involved in pregnancy and lactation and even in the processes associated with sexual intercourse, such as ejaculation. In short, it is not only a love hormone, although it can also mend a broken heart.

Broken heart, missing cells

The heart is mainly made up of three layers known as pericardium, myocardium and endocardium. The first envelops the outermost part of the heart, separating it from nearby structures. Next comes the myocardium, the intermediate layer that makes up most of its thickness. And finally, the endocardium, covering the entire internal part of the organ.

The contraction of the heart necessary to pump blood is carried out by cells called cardiomyocytes, which are in the second of these layers. Unfortunately, when a heart attack occurs, these cells degenerate and they cannot be restored, with all the ensuing consequences.

For many years, scientists have tried to find a solution to this serious problem and found it in the pericardium. And the thing is, there are some stem cells that can be reprogrammed in the lab so that instead of becoming pericardial cells, they form cardiomyocytes. They are known as epicardial progenitor stem cells (EpiPC) and they have a very interesting potential, but also a big limitation, since the process of converting from one cell to another is very inefficient.

Blue (Wikimedia Commons)

Tricks with zebrafish

Zebrafish are widely used in research for many reasons. First, it is very easy to play, so many individuals can be obtained in a short time. In addition, these are known vertebrate species that has more coding genes. On the other hand, it develops very quickly and embryos are transparent, so its evolution can be observed with the naked eye. And, if all that wasn’t enough, he also has the ability to quickly regenerate many lost parts of one’s bodyincluding heart cells.

This is because their epicardial cells can naturally differentiate into cardiomyocytes much faster than human cells. Clearly, this is a good model to consider, so the authors of the published study decided to explore what signal was driving them to make such effective changes.

To verify this, they damaged his heart by freezing it and checked for fluctuating levels. messenger RNA (mRNA) of different genes. At this point, it is important to remember that mRNA is responsible for giving instructions to the cell’s protein factories, called ribosomes, to make certain proteins. All of these instructions are embedded in the body’s DNA, but are not always used in the same way.

In this case, they found that after damage to the heart, the level of mRNA with instructions for the synthesis of oxytocin is reduced. increases 20 times in the brainbecause this is where this hormone is produced. Once the love hormone was synthesized, they found that it travels to specific receptors located in the pericardium. At this point, a cascade of signals began, which led to the extremely efficient production of EpiPC, which helped repair damaged cardiomyocytes.

Also in cultured heart cells

It was an exciting discovery, but it remains to be seen if it was just the zebrafish’s superpower or if it could multiply in people. To do this, they took cultures of human heart cells and exposed them to both oxytocin and other substances. proteins synthesized in the brain. They found that oxytocin induces a signaling cascade similar to what they observed in zebrafish. In addition, if receptors for the love hormone were removed from the pericardial cells, EpiPCs were not produced.

In short, it is clear that oxytocin plays a key role in regenerating a broken heart. And not broken by a lack of love, but broken by a heart attack. Now it only remains to check whether good results can be reproduced in heart patients. At the moment, researchers are very optimistic. And the fact is that, after all, it seems that there is at least one type of broken heart that can be cured by the hormone of love. Paradoxically, but the cure for those who break up due to lack of love is usually only time.

Source: Hiper Textual

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