Researchers found a new type of cell in the heart that may help in regulating heart rate and rhythm, and may reveal new understandings of some of the heart defects.
A group of scientists at university of Notre Dame discovered new cells called as nexus glia that may help regulating the development and function of the heart. These cells may regulate heart rate and rhythm, as well as they could provide important insights on certain types of congenital heart defects and other diseases involving the heart.
These glial cells are found in nervous system and the brain, where they support and provide structure for neurons. These cells are also observed in some of the major organs, where the peripheral nervous system spreads into them. However, these cells were never found in the heart until now. In this new research, the scientists looked for these cells in the heart of zebrafish, and they found cells that were similar to astrocytes that are a type of glial cell found in the brain. In further investigations, the scientists found these cells on hearts of mouse and human as well. These new cells, nexus glia are found in outflow tract, which is part of the structure through which blood moves out of the heart.
Moreover, further investigations show that nexus glia carry an important role in the regulation of heart rate and rhythm. In the tests, when the researchers removed these cells from the heart of animals, they observed that the heart rate of the animal increased. The team also observed that the engineered animals with lack of a gene responsible for the development of glial cells, showed irregular heartbeat. According to the researchers, these findings could be used for treatment of specific heart defects and diseases. Even if there is much more work needed in the research, however these findings may create new ways for research in future.