Microscopes, Petri Dishes and Hearts, Oh My

Published on 
February 17, 2014

By Jennifer Jing, MS, media liaison and science writer, Marketing Communications, Saban Research Institute at Children's Hospital Los Angeles

In honor of American Heart Month, we would like to show off what Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is doing for hearts—in the lab! From cardiac tissue regeneration to imaging individual cells during development, The Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is discovering revolutionary techniques that will improve the way “we treat kids (and hearts) better.”

Lien Heart Regeneration

The Key to Heart Regeneration

Just like our biceps and hamstrings, the heart can “tire out” after prolonged stress.  But in serious cases, this muscle fatigue can cause our vital pumping organ to fail.

One of the fundamental causes of this failure is the loss or damage of the heart’s muscle cells (cardiomyocytes), which cannot be replaced in humans. They can, however, be replaced in the zebrafish.

In her lab at The Saban Research Institute, Ellen Lien, PhD, studies these striped, finned creatures in order to understand exactly how regeneration works. She has pinpointed several growth factors, such as Igf2, that are required for zebrafish cell proliferation to take place. Since zebrafish Igf2 targets a subgroup of cardiomyocytes, Lien is looking to see if this specific factor will promote heart regeneration in mammals like us.

Watch Dr. Lien at Work in Her Lab