Blood vessel regeneration could help reverse MI tissue damage

A new study done by researchers in the United Kingdom explores how manipulating the hormone leptin to grow new blood vessels could help regenerate tissues in heart failure patients.

Leptin, produced by fat cells, helps regulate energy balance in the body by decreasing an individual’s appetite. The full study was published in Scientific Reports. In the future, these findings could help develop an alternative treatment to coronary artery bypass surgery for heart patients.

The study was led by Paolo Madeddu, a professor of experimental cardiovascular medicine at the University of Bristol.

Results showed that the cells surrounding blood vessels, called pericytes, produced 40 times more leptin when they were exposed to low levels of oxygen, helping them to build more blood vessels and increase blood flow and oxygen.

"This new discovery could have important implications for the treatment of heart attacks, which is when a main coronary artery gets blocked, but also cancer," Madeddu said in a statement. "These results reveal a new signaling mechanism that may have a far-reaching and significant impact on cardiovascular regenerative medicine. Increasing leptin in pericytes in a damaged heart might help it to heal faster, whereas blocking the production of leptin in cancerous pericytes might starve the tumor of nutrients and force it to shrink."