Around 250,000 people in Sweden suffer from heart failure. This means that the heart has become so damaged that it no longer has the strength to pump enough blood around the body. It is possible to perform a heart transplant if the person is otherwise healthy, but many people who have heart failure die in a few years.
Dr. Olaf Bergmann at Karolinska Institutet aims to get damaged hearts to heal themselves. Previously, researchers thought that the heart only forms new cells during the fetal stage and childhood but, in 2009, Olaf Bergmann demonstrated – to many people’s surprise – that heart muscle cells are renewed throughout life.
He used a unique method for determining the age of the cells in an adult heart, utilizing the fact that nuclear weapons’ tests have changed the levels of carbon-14 in the atmosphere. As a Wallenberg Academy Fellow, Olaf Bergmann will continue to employ the latest technology in investigating the molecular mechanisms that stimulate cell growth in our hearts. The aim is to be able to control the process and encourage failing hearts to form healthy new cells.
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Read more about Olaf Bergmann at ki.se
Photo: Markus Marcetic