A team of researchers at Newcastle University, led by Dr. Gavin Richardson, are challenging current donor heart selection criteria with their innovative study of ‘Zombie’ cells. This research could redefine our understanding of heart health and offer a lifeline to those waiting for a lifesaving transplant.
These so-called ‘Zombie’ cells, also known as senescent cells, are not dead but are dysfunctional. The British Heart Foundation reports that these cells contribute to heart diseases by increasing inflammation and scar tissue formation in heart muscle, affecting surrounding cells.
Heart disease is a significant global health concern. As per the World Health Organization, it’s the leading cause of death, claiming nearly 17.9 million lives annually. The researchers aim to explore the ‘signature’ that ‘Zombie’ cells leave in the blood, which could provide crucial insights about the biological age of hearts, potentially upending the exclusion of hearts from donors aged over 65.
The researchers are confident about the potential benefits of their study. If successful, their approach could increase the pool of available donor hearts, which could transform the lives of those waiting for a heart transplant.