Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death worldwide in men and women worldwide, claiming more than 17 million lives each year. The effects of acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) and congestive heart failure present great challenges for doctors and researchers alike. Heart attacks cause damage to the heart muscle, making it less efficient at pumping blood throughout the circulatory system. The heart has minimal ability to regenerate, so the lost muscle is replaced by scar tissue. This leaves patients with reduced cardiac function, which often progresses to heart failure, where the heart cannot meet the body’s demand for blood flow. Current treatments for heart failure focus on managing symptoms (like reducing blood pressure) but do not address the root problem: a heart that has lost too many functional heart muscle cells. Despite major advances in how heart disease is managed, heart disease is progressive. Once heart cells are damaged, they cannot be replaced by the body. New treatment strategies are needed to restore function, rather than manage, this chronic disease.
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