To explain how the human heart, an essential organ works, and to shed light on what goes wrong in cardiovascular disease, scientists have developed a comprehensive cellular and molecular map of the healthy human heart.
Nearly half a million individual cells were studied by the team from Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Germany, Imperial College London, and their global collaborators to create the most comprehensive cell map of the human heart.
The atlas displays the immense cell complexity and exposes types of heart muscle cells, cardiac immune defense cells, and an extensive blood vessel network. In order to keep the heart beating, it also predicts how the cells interact.
The study is part of the initiative of the Human Cell Atlas to map every form of cell in the human body. The new heart molecular and cellular knowledge promises to allow a deeper understanding of heart disease and to direct the growth of highly individualized therapies.
The average human heart delivers more than 2 billion life-sustaining beats to the body over a lifetime. In doing so, it helps provide cells, tissues, and organs with oxygen and nutrients and allows carbon dioxide and waste products to be extracted. Per day, with a one-way stream across four separate chambers, the heart beats about 100,000 times, varying pace with rest, exercise and stress.
In various parts of the heart, every beat requires an exquisitely complex yet perfect synchronization across different cells. It can lead to cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death worldwide, killing an estimated 17.9 million people per year when this intricate teamwork goes wrong.
To understand how things go wrong in heart disease, detailing the biochemical processes within the cells of a healthy heart is important. For different types of cardiovascular disease, such information may lead to more reliable, better treatment strategies.
There are millions of people seeking cardiovascular disease treatment. Understanding the healthy heart will help us understand the connexions that can allow lifelong functioning between cell types and cell states and how they vary in diseases.
Ultimately, these fundamental observations may indicate clear goals that may lead in the future to individualized treatments, the development of customized heart disease drugs, and the enhancement of therapeutic efficacy for each patient.