"Love hormone" can literally save broken hearts: scientists confirm its unique function in a new study

Yulia PoteriankoSociety
Fish have long been able to use oxytocin to repair a severely damaged heart

In practice, the poetic term "broken heart" describes a very unpleasant and dangerous health condition: damage to the heart muscle for various reasons. In particular, due to a heart attack that occurred after strong emotional experiences. However, scientists have now come to the conclusion that such ailments can be treated in the future with oxytocin, also called the "love hormone" or "hug hormone."

According to Live Science, the effect of oxytocin on heart muscle tissue was studied in danio fish and human cell culture grown in Petri dishes. It turned out that, in addition to its ability to elevate mood, form attachments, induce lactation in parturient women, lower blood pressure, and neutralize free radicals, this hormone helped danio fish replace damaged or dead heart cells with new cardiomyocytes. These cells are responsible for the heart's ability to contract.

The results of the study were published in late September in the journal Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology. Moreover, the authors pointed out that oxytocin showed similar results in a culture of human heart muscle cells grown in a Petri dish. This could potentially indicate that oxytocin administered at the right time and in the right dose could protect the heart from damage during cardiovascular disasters.

The study says that earlier work has already shown the limited ability of the human heart to heal itself. In particular, by reprogramming a subset of cells in the epicardium that can turn into stem cells (EiPSCs), which can turn into new cardiomyocytes and other types of heart cells. But they were still not enough to completely overcome the negative effects of a heart attack.

Meanwhile, danio fish are known for their amazing ability to repair their "motor". They can repair the heart even if the organ has been damaged by a quarter. As scientists have found, this happens simultaneously due to the growth of new cardiomyocytes and the work of EiPSCs. The researchers froze the danio for three days, which first caused heart damage. However, then they observed the regeneration process, which was accompanied by a rapid increase in oxytocin levels in the brain up to 20 times, after which the hormone entered the heart and started the recovery process.

It is now known that no other hormone has had such an effect on human heart tissue. The scientists concluded that the data obtained could be used to develop new methods of treating patients with heart attacks and reducing the risk of heart failure in the future by enhancing the effect of oxytocin on the body. These treatments may be based on drugs containing oxytocin or other molecules that can bind to the hormone's receptors. However, scientists still have to conduct preclinical animal and human clinical trials.

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