Professor Joseph Itskovitz-Eldor, (Emeritus Professor) Rambam Health Care Campus
Coronary heart disease, the major cause of heart attacks, is the UK’s single biggest killer and is responsible for around 73,000 deaths in the UK each year. While heart attack survival rates are higher than ever, there is no cure for heart failure following a heart attack where the heart is less able to pump blood around the body.
There is a significant shortage of donor hearts so researchers hope the treatments of the future will come in the form of regenerative medicine where damage to the heart is repaired or lost tissue is regenerated.
Professor Peault and Professor Itskovitz-Eldor focused on spider-like cells that wrap around blood vessels, called pericytes. These cells are known to have the ability to stimulate the regeneration of tissue. But different pericyte types appear to have specific functions – some are responsible for the formation of scar tissue after damage rather than the regeneration of the damaged tissue.
The researchers worked to identify the different types of pericyte by finding molecules unique to each type which can act as markers. They tested each type in the petri dish and in mice to see their capacity for regenerating tissue.
In November 2018, Professor Peault presented the research at the Karolinska Institute’s Nobel Forum.