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You can actually trick your heart into thinking you exercise

Groundbreaking research out of the University of Ottawa could create new treatments for patients with heart problems and complications suffered after a heart attack that limits their ability to exercise.

Heart disease and heart failure are leading causes of death and disability practically worldwide. Heart failure occurs when heart disease or heart attack damage the heart muscle tissue and prevent proper blood flow to the heart.

Researchers from The Ottawa Hospital, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, and Carleton University have found that a protein in the heart called cardiotrophin 1, or CT1, can actually repair damage caused by heart attacks, increase blood flow, and trick the heart into healthy growth as it would in response to physical exercise.

“We found that CT1 causes heart muscles to grow in a more healthy way and it also stimulates blood vessel growth in the heart. This actually increases the heart’s ability to pump blood, just like what you would see with exercise and pregnancy, ” said Dr. Lynn Megeney, lead author of the study, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital, and a professor at the University of Ottawa.

The research team looked at rats, mice, and cell models to see how CT1 helped damaged heart tissue. The researchers also used a drug known as phenylephrine, which can negatively affect heart growth, to provide examples of both healthy and harmful heart growth.

The results found that CT1 helped repair and improve heart function in animals who had suffered a heart attack and animals suffering from hypertension. This is particularly exciting discovery because it shows that CT1 can improve heart issues that affect both the right and left sides of the heart.

Researchers also found that the reason CT1 helps increase blood flow is because it allows blood vessels to grow along side new muscle and heart tissue. But the drug phenylephrine did nothing to help repair the damaged tissue and did not increase blood flow.

Even though the effects CT1 have on the heart can be easily replicated with regular exercise, often patients who have suffered a heart attack have limited abilities when it comes to physical exertion. Studies like this could pave the way for new treatments to help repair and strengthen damaged heart muscle and tissue.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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