New Cardiac Cell Could Help Regulate Heart Rate

The cells, named nexus glia, resemble critical glial cells called astrocytes in the brain, and when these cells were removed, heart rate increased.

A new type of cell in the heart may help to regulate heart rate and could be key in understanding certain types of congenital heart defects and other diseases of the heart, results of a study from the University of Notre Dame showed.

The cells, named nexus glia, resemble critical glial cells called astrocytes in the brain, and when these cells were removed, heart rate increased. In addition, when the cells were deprived of a key gene that drives the glial development, the heartbeat was irregular.

“It’s a discovery that now we have 100 questions we didn’t even know existed, so we’re following up on them to explore this path that has never been studied before,” Cody Smith, PhD, the Elizabeth and Michael Gallagher associate professor in the department of biological at Notre Dame, said in a statement.

There is not a definite connection between the discovery and congenital heart defect, but the cells are in the outflow track of the heart, which is where many defects are found. The outflow tract is a structure that forms during development and contributes to a pathway connecting the ventricles to the arteries leaving the heart.

Investigators discovered the cells in zebrafish, then confirmed their existence in both mice and humans.

The findings were published in POLS Biology.

Reference

New cell, shown to regulate heart rate, discovered at University of Notre Dame. EurekAlert. News release. November 18, 2021. Accessed November19, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/935477