Why Can Zebrafish Regenerate Damaged Heart Tissue, While Other Fish Species Cannot?

University of Utah biologists discover that tiny tropical fish's "superpower" lies in an immune response to heart injuries.

A heart attack will leave a permanent scar on a human heart, yet other animals, including some fish and amphibians, can clear cardiac scar tissue and regrow damaged muscle as adults. Scientists have sought to figure out how this special power works in hopes of advancing medical treatments for human cardiac patients, but the great physiological differences between fish and mammals make such inquiries difficult. So, University of Utah biologists, led by Assistant Professor Jamie Gagnon, PhD, tackled the problem by comparing two fish species: zebrafish, which can regenerate its heart, and medaka, which cannot.

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