Scarring after heart surgery 'could prevent further attacks'

16 November 2011

Scar tissue caused by heart surgery could be necessary to prevent a heart attack, new research suggests.

Experts at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill School of Medicine explained that portions of the heart damaged by a lack of oxygen become scar tissue after surgery and by attempting to prevent this natural process the heart can become even weaker.

Previously, research has suggested that the hardening of the walls caused by the scarring could lessen the muscle's ability to pump blood and eventually lead to heart failure. The newest addition published in the EMBO Journal shows a different approach.

Arjun Deb, senior study author and assistant professor of medicine and cell and molecular physiology at the UNC School of Medicine, said: "We now know that scarring is a good thing, because it prevents a precipitous decline in heart function immediately after heart injury."

He added that they would have to consider when it makes the most sense to manipulate the cells of the heart to decrease scarring and enhance regeneration.

One type of commonly used surgery for heart disease carried out in Britain is a percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, also known as a PCI.

Posted by Philip Briggs

Deb, Arjun, et al., "Wnt1/βcatenin injury response activates the epicardium and cardiac fibroblasts to promote cardiac repair", EMBO journal, November 15th 2011.

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