The Kühn Lab

The Self Healing Heart
The Self-Healing Heart

Researchers in Pittsburgh are regenerating pediatric heart tissue, potentially leading to novel approaches for the treatment of heart failure.

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In Pursuit of the Self-Healing Heart

While much is understood about the mechanisms of the life-sustaining pump known as the human heart, when it is examined on the cellular and molecular level many mysteries remain. Unraveling the secrets of what makes heart muscle cells different from most others in the human body is the passion of Bernhard Kühn, MD, whose laboratory resides within the Richard King Mellon Foundation Institute for Pediatric Research. Notably, these specialized contractile cells, called cardiomyocytes, are exceptional in that they lack the ability to replicate and proliferate, processes that are necessary to repair tissue damage and restore normal function.

Our pioneering work has already provided insights into the growth mechanisms of these cells. The Kühn Lab’s long-term goal is to lead to therapies that can help the heart muscle, the myocardium, to heal itself – to recover from a heart attack, or to help it restore a congenital heart defect to normal cardiac function without requiring surgery.

As part of the Institute for Pediatric Research, the Kühn Lab coordinates with the Heart Institute of UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine to advance its work from the research lab to clinical care.

Through its initiatives, the Kühn Lab addresses these important biological questions:

  • How do cardiomyocytes stop dividing?
  • How do differentiated cardiomyocytes re-enter the cell division cycle?
  • If cardiomyocyte regeneration can be stimulated, how can this be controlled? The answers may ultimately lead to regenerative therapies for heart failure.