STRENUOUS daily exercise could help to repair the heart of someone who has just suffered a heart attack, according to a new study.
Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University found that vigorous regular exercise led to dormant stem cells in the heart becoming active. This stimulated the development of new heart muscle.
The findings, published in the European Heart Journal, suggest that scientists could soon be able to improve the quality of life for people suffering from heart disease or heart failure.
This is the first study of its kind to suggest that a basic exercise regime could have the same effect on the heart as injecting growth chemicals to stimulate stem cells to produce new tissue.
The team of scientists, funded by the British Heart Foundation, studied healthy male rats for up to four weeks by exercising them on an intensity-controlled treadmill for half an hour, four times a week.
The rats on a high-intensity programme showed the greatest increase in the size of their hearts, as expected, but also their aerobic capacity - how well the heart, lungs and blood vessels work.
The exercise resulted in more than 60 per cent of heart stem cells becoming active. In adults these stem cells are usually dormant.
After only two weeks the rats had increased the number of cardiomyocites, the ‘beating’ cells in heart tissue, by seven per cent.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate director of the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘This study adds to the growing evidence that adult hearts may be able to make new muscle from dormant stem cells.
‘However, much more research is now needed to find out whether what’s been seen in this study can be translated into treatments for human patients.’ – DM