Scientists discover cell in ‘strange fluid’ that could treat heart disease

17 Jul 2019

Image: © Ezume Images/

Scientists have discovered a previously unidentified cell that could lead to breakthrough treatments for heart disease.

In a major development in the field of cardiac medicine, a team of scientists at the University of Calgary has, for the first time, discovered a cell population with potentially game-changing benefits. The discovery was made in pericardial fluid found inside the sac around the heart.

In a paper published to the journal Immunity, the team identified the cell as Gata6+ pericardial cavity macrophage in the fluid surrounding the damaged heart of a mouse. Working with a cardiac surgeon, these same cells were discovered within the human pericardium of people with injured hearts, confirming that the repair cells offer the promise of a new therapy for patients with heart disease.

Heart doctors had never before explored the possibility that cells outside the heart could be beneficial in the healing and repair of hearts after suffering damage, such as through heart disease. Unlike many other organs in the body, the heart has little ability to repair itself to full strength, making this discovery particularly important.

“Our discovery of a new cell that can help heal injured heart muscle will open the door to new therapies and hope for the millions of people who suffer from heart disease,” said Dr Paul Fedak, the cardiac surgeon who worked with the team.

“We always knew that the heart sits inside a sac filled with a strange fluid. Now we know that this pericardial fluid is rich with healing cells. These cells may hold the secret to repair and regeneration of new heart muscle. The possibilities for further discovery and innovative new therapies are exciting and important.”

Those involved in the research will now look to conduct a broader study on human heart repair using this new cell discovery and potentially find new therapeutics for heart repair.

This news follows a discovery earlier this month, which showed scientists have found a way to direct stem cells to heart tissue, potentially revolutionising treatment for heart disease.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic