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Repairing damaged heart muscle tissue
Almost a century after it was discovered in fruit flies with notches in their wings, the Notch signalling pathway may come to play an important role in the recovery from heart attacks. In a study published today in Circulation Research, scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Monterotondo, Italy, are the first to prove that this signalling pathway targets heart muscle cells and thus reveal its crucial role in heart development and repair. The Notch pathway is a molecular mechanism through which cells communicate with each other. Scientists in Nadia Rosenthal’s group at EMBL used sophisticated genetic mouse models to uncover critical roles for this pathway in heart muscle cells. When they inactivated Notch specifically in the heart muscle precursor cells of early mouse embryos, the scientists discovered that the mice developed heart defects. Curiously, increasing Notch signalling in the heart muscle cells of older embryos had the same detrimental effect, uncovering different requirements for Notch as development proceeds.