Scientists have discovered a way to stimulate muscle cell growth in the heart, limiting the damage to this vital organ after a heart attack.

It’s hoped the exciting research, which was conducted by Professor Eldad Tzahor from the Weizmann Institute of Science in collaboration with Professor Richard Harvey at the Victor Chang Institute, could help the 55,000 Australians who suffer a heart attack each year.

Heart attacks still claim the lives of 26 Australians every day – that’s one heart attack every ten minutes.

Heart attack occurs when one of the vessels that feed blood to the heart muscle becomes blocked. Within just minutes of a heart attack, heart muscle cells begin to die on mass. Starved of oxygen, billions of cells can be lost, causing permanent damage to the organ.

Scientists have now found a new way to potentially regenerate the heart after a heart attack by replacing lost muscle cells. According to Professor Richard Harvey from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, this is an important step forward toward repairing a broken heart.

“Unlike blood, hair or skin cells, which can renew themselves throughout life, cell division in the heart virtually comes to a standstill shortly after birth, which means the heart can’t fully regenerate if it is damaged later in life,” Professor Harvey explained.

“The scientists wanted to find a better way to stimulate the regeneration of heart muscle cells in adults, to improve recovery after a heart attack”.

“Previous studies have demonstrated that it is possible to coax heart muscle cells to proliferate again, but only at very trivial levels.

“What the research team has been able to do is boost heart muscle cell numbers by as much as 45% after a heart attack. That’s a huge improvement!”

Scientists focused on a signalling system in the heart driven by a hormone called ‘neuregulin’.

By switching the neuregulin pathway to ‘turbo charge’ the researchers found that heart muscle cells continued to divide in a spectacular way in both the adolescent and adult periods.

Stimulating the neuregulin pathway during a heart attack lead to replacement of lost muscle.

“It’s a big achievement that will focus the attention of the field on heart muscle cell replacement as a therapeutic option for ischemic heart disease.

“The dream is that one day we will be able to regenerate damaged heart tissue, much like a salamander can regrow a new limb if it is bitten off by a predator. Just imagine if the heart could learn to regrow and heal itself. That would be the ultimate prize!”

The study has been published in Nature Cell Biology. To read more click here

To see the story that featured on SBS News click here


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Privacy Policy

1. Our privacy commitment

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute respects your privacy.

We collect, store and use your personal information to help us fight heart disease. This Privacy Policy explains how we handle the personal information we collect relating to our fundraising activities – this includes marketing, events, our website, and health promotion services such as the Health Check Booth.

2. What types of personal information we collect

Personal information means information that identifies you or that could reasonably be used to identify you. The types of personal information we collect may include your name, gender, contact information, email address, credit/debit card information and if you consent to take part in our activities and events, health promotion services or to receive marketing materials from us.

3. Health information and other sensitive information

We do not collect health information or other types of sensitive information as part of our general fundraising activities or through our general web-site.

4. Using unsolicited information

Unsolicited information is information that is given to us that we haven’t asked for, from you or anyone else. If we receive this type of information, we will check whether this information is reasonably necessary for what we do. If it is, we’ll handle this information in the same way we do all personal information under privacy laws. If we don’t need it we’ll destroy or de-identify it.

5. How we collect your personal information

Where possible, we will collect your personal information directly from you. This may be in person (e.g. when you attend an event), on the telephone, or on-line.

We only collect information by lawful and fair means.

We may also obtain personal information from third parties or publicly available sources. In this case, we will take reasonable steps to contact you and ensure that you are aware of the circumstances surrounding the collection and purposes for which we collected your personal information.

6. Why we collect your personal information

We may collect your personal information for a number of purposes, including:

  • Marketing: to communicate with you about donations, our activities and fundraising events.
  • Health promotion: to provide you with services and information related to cardiovascular disease and its risk factors and research-related events and seminars.
  • Other activities: communicating with you to verify your identity, to improve and evaluate our programs and services, and to comply with relevant laws.

7. What happens if you don’t provide your information?

If you do not provide some or all of the personal information requested, we may not be able to offer you services, process your donations, or provide you with information about our events and activities.

8. Using a pseudonym or engaging with us anonymously

Anonymous donations may be made to the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute at any time by contacting us directly. Please note that we are unable to provide anonymous donors with receipts.

If you want to make a general enquiry or browse our web-site you can do so anonymously.

9. Website usage information and cookies

We do not use ‘cookies’ or any other methods to record information that is personally identifiable such as a visitor’s contact details, IP address, or domain name. We do use ‘cookies’ to anonymously track visits to our web pages and the documents that are downloaded in order to compile statistical information. This provides us with information about which pages are popular. If you prefer for ‘cookies’ not to be used, you can set your browser to disable them.

10. When we disclose your personal information

We may need to disclose your personal information to our agents in order to carry out our fundraising activities. This may include agencies who perform services on our behalf, such as mailing houses, printers, information technology services providers, archiving services, database services and telemarketing agencies. These services will always be provided under strict confidentiality agreements.

In rare cases, we may be required by law to disclose your information to a government or law enforcement agency (for example to investigate an allegation of credit card fraud).

11. Security of our information

We take all reasonable steps to protect the personal information we hold from misuse, interference and loss, and from unauthorised access. Electronic information is stored on secure servers that are protected in controlled facilities.

We do not use data hosting facilities or third party service providers that store information overseas.

Hard copy information is generally stored in our offices, which are secured to prevent entry by unauthorised people. Any personal information not actively being used is archived, usually for 7 years, with a third party provider of secure archiving services. Where personal information is stored with a third party, we have strict agreements in place that require those third parties to maintain the security of the information.

12. Security of direct debit and credit card information

We use a third-party financial institution to process our credit card transactions. It receives the credit card number and other personal information of our donors only to verify credit card numbers and to process credit card transactions in a secure environment. Where your financial information is stored on our servers, access to this information is restricted to our authorised staff only.

13. Accessing or changing your personal information

We take reasonable steps to make sure that the information we collect and use is accurate, up-to-date and complete. You may contact our Fund Development Officer at any time if you wish to:

  • change or correct your personal information (for example address or telephone number)
  • cancel some or all of the communications that we provide (we include opt-out mechanisms on the majority of our communications)
  • request access to the information that we hold about you
  • request further information about our privacy policy.

14. Questions and complaints

If you have any questions, concerns or complaints about the way in which we have handled your personal information, please contact our Fund Development Officer.

Once we receive a complaint, we will respond to you as soon as possible and will let you know if we need any further information from you. We will notify you of our decision within 30 days, however, if we are unable to do so, we will let you know the reason for the delay and the expected timeframe for resolving the complaint.

You may also lodge a complaint with the Office of Australian Information Commissioner, for more information visit www.oaic.gov.au.

15. How to contact the Fund Development Officer




Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute
PO Box 699
Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Telephone 1300 842 867

For a copy of our full privacy policy, please click here.

Updated: March 2014