Doctors & Hospitals

Challenging Age Boundaries in Heart Transplantation: The ‘Zombie’ Cells Factor

"Zombie Cells - Transformative Research for Heart Transplants"

Heart transplants save thousands of lives each year, yet many remain on waiting lists due to the shortage of donor hearts. While the current practice excludes hearts from donors over 65 due to potential health risks, researchers at Newcastle University are aiming to challenge this criterion through their groundbreaking study of ‘Zombie’ cells.

‘Zombie’ cells, also known as senescent cells, aren’t dead but don’t function correctly. These cells produce molecules impacting neighbouring cells, promoting inflammation, and scar tissue formation in the heart muscle. This activity contributes to the development of heart diseases, a leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases account for approximately 17.9 million deaths each year.

Understanding the ‘Zombie’ cells and their ‘signature’ in the blood could offer a new way of assessing heart health, focusing on biological age rather than chronological age. The need for more accurate evaluation methods is emphasized by the fact that nearly 3,552 heart transplants took place in the United States in 2019, as per the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

The team, led by Dr. Gavin Richardson, is optimistic about the potential impact of their research. If successful, their findings could pave the way to increase the pool of viable donor hearts, ultimately saving more lives waiting for a heart transplant.

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