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While fish and other amphibians can regenerate heart muscle throughout their lives, for unclear reasons, mammals cannot. In fact, the human heart is the least regenerative organ in the body, which means that when someone has a heart attack, the portion of cardiac tissue that dies never regenerates, and this is what leads to heart failure. Dr. Charles E. Murray is a professor, cardiovascular pathologist, and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Biology at the University of Washington, and a solution to this problem is being created in his lab. Dr. Murray is using stem cells to grow beating, human heart muscle cells—unlimited amounts of them that can be used as seeding material for additional heart tissue regeneration. Once injected into the damaged portion of heart tissue, the cells begin dividing, connecting with each other, and connecting with the existing heart tissue, and before long, they begin beating in sync with the existing heart cells. On today’s episode, Dr. Murray discusses a range of fascinating topics including environmental and microbiome-dependent effects on the heart and provides an in-depth explanation of the science behind heart disease, damage, and repair.

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