a small Mexican fish may hide the key to changing the lives of thousands of people suffering from heart problems after having suffered a heart attack.
Tetra, whose scientific name is Astyanax Mexicanus, is able to regenerate your heart tissues without leaving scars.
Research, funded by the British Heart Foundation, found that three genome domains of this species are involved in its ability to regenerate tissue.
For this study, Dr. Mathilda Mommersteeg and herself team at the University of Oxford have studied two types of tetra mexico: those who live in the river and can heal the tissue of the heart and those who live caves that can not.
The cave fish lived in the northern Mexico rivers, but they were dragged into caves by a flood of 1.5 million years ago, and evolved, losing sight of their color, because they lived in the dark.
When comparing it the two types of tetra, the researchers found that two genes (lrrc10 and caveolin) were much more active in river fish after a heart attack.
Then the scientists pulled out the lrrc10 gene in another species of fish with self-healing abilities, zebra.
Without this gene, the zebra could not completely repair the heart without leaving scars.
Both genes are present in humans and it is known that lrrc10 is associated with a heart disease called dilatation of cardiomyopathy.
The authors of the study say that their findings suggest that one day it will be possible to regenerate damaged hearts in humans by artificially altering the way they and other genes work.
This can be done with drugs or using gene editing techniques, where the DNA is modified, deleted, or replaced using tools such as Crispr-Cas9.
"I think this fish can tell us at some point how we can really repair the human heart (…)," said Dr. Mommersteeg, an associate professor of medicine and regeneration of development.
"It is early for this, but we are incredibly excited about these extraordinary fish and the potential to change the lives of people with an affected heart," he added.