Improving Health & Medicine

February is American Heart Month

Heart Disease Research at the Weizmann Institute

E-News, February 2021 • TAGS: Heart, Organs

Covid-19 is now, by some measures, the leading cause of death in the U.S., surpassing heart disease. Yet not only is heart disease not going away, its rates are expected to increase due to Covid; as the American Heart Association recently reported, Covid’s influence “will directly and indirectly impact rates of cardiovascular disease prevalence and deaths for years to come.”

While coronavirus research at the Weizmann Institute of Science continues full speed ahead, so does critical work on heart disease. February is American Heart Month, so we’d like to share current Weizmann Institute research on this most celebrated organ.

  • Repairing the heart. One of the reasons heart disease is so deadly is that the heart is the only organ unable to heal itself – a situation that Prof. Eldad Tzahor is changing.

    Because most other cells in our body can renew themselves, trauma can be repaired. In the heart, however, cells cease to divide shortly after birth. Prof. Tzahor and his colleagues identified a molecule in newborn hearts that appears to control the heart renewal process, but is only briefly available around the time of birth. When injected into adult mouse hearts injured by heart attacks, the molecule – Agrin – apparently “unlocks” that renewal process and enables heart muscle repair. In other words, Agrin turns back the heart-repair clock.

    In research published in September 2020, Prof. Tzahor and a team of researchers revealed that they had successfully tested Agrin in pigs, limiting scarring after heart attacks. The results indicate that Agrin could promote heart repair and help prevent chronic heart failure. Given the similarity between human and pig hearts, Agrin is likely to work in people. Prof. Tzahor continues to advance this research.

  • The lymphatic system’s role in heart repair. Prof. Karina Yaniv sought to uncover the role lymphatic vessels play in the heart, particularly following injury – and found that lymphatic fluid is just as crucial as blood in helping the heart recover.

    Studying zebrafish – which are ideal for such research because their hearts can regenerate after injury – Prof. Yaniv and her team showed that without an adequate network of lymphatic vessels, even the hearts of zebrafish fail to heal. The scientists also identified two distinct types of lymphatic vessels, which form differently and perform different tasks from each other. These findings may help develop new ways to promote heart repair and facilitate the growth of organs for transplant.

  • Using AI to diagnose heart disease. Prof. Yaron Lipman and cardiac clinicians at NYU’s School of Medicine used artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to create On-Sight, an award-winning system that can interpret EKG images – the gold standard in heart-disease diagnosis – with an accuracy that rivals that of trained technicians. On-Sight has the potential to improve patient care and save lives, and could allow EKGs to be used in places without trained technicians, from nursing homes and sports clinics to developing countries and remote regions.

These are just some of the diverse projects underway as Weizmann Institute scientists seek greater understanding of the heart and develop innovative ways to keep it healthy. Please support their commitment, during American Heart Month and beyond.

Improving Health & Medicine

February is American Heart Month

Heart Disease Research at the Weizmann Institute

E-News, February 2021 • TAGS: Heart , Organs

Covid-19 is now, by some measures, the leading cause of death in the U.S., surpassing heart disease. Yet not only is heart disease not going away, its rates are expected to increase due to Covid; as the American Heart Association recently reported, Covid’s influence “will directly and indirectly impact rates of cardiovascular disease prevalence and deaths for years to come.”

While coronavirus research at the Weizmann Institute of Science continues full speed ahead, so does critical work on heart disease. February is American Heart Month, so we’d like to share current Weizmann Institute research on this most celebrated organ.

  • Repairing the heart. One of the reasons heart disease is so deadly is that the heart is the only organ unable to heal itself – a situation that Prof. Eldad Tzahor is changing.

    Because most other cells in our body can renew themselves, trauma can be repaired. In the heart, however, cells cease to divide shortly after birth. Prof. Tzahor and his colleagues identified a molecule in newborn hearts that appears to control the heart renewal process, but is only briefly available around the time of birth. When injected into adult mouse hearts injured by heart attacks, the molecule – Agrin – apparently “unlocks” that renewal process and enables heart muscle repair. In other words, Agrin turns back the heart-repair clock.

    In research published in September 2020, Prof. Tzahor and a team of researchers revealed that they had successfully tested Agrin in pigs, limiting scarring after heart attacks. The results indicate that Agrin could promote heart repair and help prevent chronic heart failure. Given the similarity between human and pig hearts, Agrin is likely to work in people. Prof. Tzahor continues to advance this research.

  • The lymphatic system’s role in heart repair. Prof. Karina Yaniv sought to uncover the role lymphatic vessels play in the heart, particularly following injury – and found that lymphatic fluid is just as crucial as blood in helping the heart recover.

    Studying zebrafish – which are ideal for such research because their hearts can regenerate after injury – Prof. Yaniv and her team showed that without an adequate network of lymphatic vessels, even the hearts of zebrafish fail to heal. The scientists also identified two distinct types of lymphatic vessels, which form differently and perform different tasks from each other. These findings may help develop new ways to promote heart repair and facilitate the growth of organs for transplant.

  • Using AI to diagnose heart disease. Prof. Yaron Lipman and cardiac clinicians at NYU’s School of Medicine used artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to create On-Sight, an award-winning system that can interpret EKG images – the gold standard in heart-disease diagnosis – with an accuracy that rivals that of trained technicians. On-Sight has the potential to improve patient care and save lives, and could allow EKGs to be used in places without trained technicians, from nursing homes and sports clinics to developing countries and remote regions.

These are just some of the diverse projects underway as Weizmann Institute scientists seek greater understanding of the heart and develop innovative ways to keep it healthy. Please support their commitment, during American Heart Month and beyond.