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PLOS ONE  2012 

Nerve Growth Factor Stimulates Cardiac Regeneration via Cardiomyocyte Proliferation in Experimental Heart Failure

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053210

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Although the adult heart likely retains some regenerative capacity, heart failure (HF) typically remains a progressive disorder. We hypothesise that alterations in the local environment contribute to the failure of regeneration in HF. Previously we showed that nerve growth factor (NGF) is deficient in the failing heart and here we hypothesise that diminished NGF limits the cardiac regenerative response in HF. The capacity of NGF to augment cardiac regeneration was tested in a zebrafish model of HF. Cardiac injury with a HF phenotype was induced in zebrafish larvae at 72 hours post fertilization (hpf) by exposure to aristolochic acid (AA, 2.5 μM, 72–75 hpf). By 168 hpf, AA induced HF and death in 37.5% and 20.8% of larvae respectively (p<0.001). NGF mRNA expression was reduced by 42% (p<0.05). The addition of NGF (50 ng/ml) after exposure to AA reduced the incidence of HF by 50% (p<0.01) and death by 65% (p<0.01). Mechanistically, AA mediated HF was characterised by reduced cardiomyocyte proliferation as reflected by a 6.4 fold decrease in BrdU+ cardiomyocytes (p<0.01) together with features of apoptosis and loss of cardiomyocytes. Following AA exposure, NGF increased the abundance of BrdU+ cardiomyocytes in the heart by 4.8 fold (p<0.05), and this was accompanied by a concomitant significant increase in cardiomyocyte numbers. The proliferative effect of NGF on cardiomyocytes was not associated with an anti-apoptotic effect. Taken together the study suggests that NGF stimulates a regenerative response in the failing zebrafish heart, mediated by stimulation of cardiomyocyte proliferation.


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