Nerve Growth Factor Helps Maintain Heart Muscle Vitality

Through experiments conducted in mice and lab-grown heart cells, researchers found that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a nerve growth factor known to act as a natural antidepressant and to enhance learning and memory, helps sustain the ability of heart muscle cells to contract and relax properly. Compared with cardiac cells from mice with normal hearts, cells from mice with failing hearts had a sub-performing version of BDNF’s receptor, a molecule called TrkB. The PNAS findings suggest that chronic BDNF deficiency or insensitivity, compounded by additional physiologic or pathologic stressors, may fuel heart disease.

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Through experiments conducted in mice and lab-grown heart cells, researchers found that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a nerve growth factor known to act as a natural antidepressant and to enhance learning and memory, helps sustain the ability of heart muscle cells to contract and relax properly. Compared with cardiac cells from mice with normal hearts, cells from mice with failing hearts had a sub-performing version of BDNF’s receptor, a molecule called TrkB. The PNAS findings suggest that chronic BDNF deficiency or insensitivity, compounded by additional physiologic or pathologic stressors, may fuel heart disease.

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