Many of us spend a lot of time talking about or working on how our body looks and if our arms or legs and other body parts are toned. For some men (and some women), spending hours and hours in the gym to build a muscular body does not seem unreasonable. While we may be focused on our outside appearance, the muscles that are actually the most important, in our bodies, are the heart muscles.
A healthy heart that functions well is important to our survival. A heart that is is not healthy is less effective at pumping blood round the body, which makes the body less able to do daily tasks.
A potentially revolutionary breakthrough in the medical field was published in Thursday’s edition of the scientific journal ‘Cell’. It’s achievement? Finding a hormone that may hold the key to giving us a younger heart.
Researchers with Harvard University at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have been working with mice in an attempt to understand how the heart ages. What they have been looking for amounts to something of a modern day fountain of youth.
“There have been factors found that are suggested to be aging factors,” noted Dr. Richard T. Lee, one of the leaders of the study, “but there has not been identification of a circulating factor that can go the other way, of turning the old tissue into younger tissue.”
So the researchers started looking for hormones that could be administered in an attempt to give the mice healthier hearts. They came across one such hormone called GDF-11, and after giving it to the mice, were amazed at the results.
“The change was unbelievably obvious,” observed Lee. “Usually we do quite sophisticated quantitative analyses of hearts and the shapes of the cells and things like that. … You could see what happened from the very first experiment.”
Generally when a heart gets older it will expand and harden as compared to its younger version. The hormone appears to keep the heart from becoming too rigid and actually shrinks it back down to its previous size, ensuring a more stable, youthful blood flow.