- In the heart, scientists have identified a new sort of cell called nexus glia.
- They discovered cells that mimic astrocytes, a kind of glial cell present in the brain while studying zebrafish hearts.
- According to the researchers, the discovery might have ramifications for some types of cardiac abnormalities and disorders.
The Nexus Glia
In the heart, scientists have identified a new sort of heart cell. The cells, now known as nexus glia, appear to assist regulate heart pace and rhythm, and the researchers believe they may provide fresh insights into various cardiac abnormalities and disorders.
Glial cells may be found in the brain and nervous system, where they support and shape neurons. They can also be found in various important organs where the peripheral nervous system extends, however, no glial cells have ever been discovered in the heart. As a result, researchers at the University of Notre Dame set out to find them for the current study.
The new cell controls heart rate and rhythm
They discovered cells that mimic astrocytes, a kind of glial cell present in the brain while studying zebrafish hearts. Follow-up research discovered the novel cells in mouse and human hearts as well. The new cells, dubbed nexus glia by the researchers, are found in the outflow tract, which is part of the structure that blood passes through on its way out of the heart.
Further research indicates that nexus glia plays an important function in controlling heart rate and rhythm. When the researchers removed cells from the hearts of mice, their heart rates climbed. The heartbeats of animals modified to lack a gene that causes the formation of glial cells were erratic.
‘Too early to tell’
According to the researchers, the discovery might have ramifications for some types of cardiac abnormalities and disorders. Some of these diseases are linked to irregular or fast heartbeats, and it’s worth noting that many congenital cardiac problems are situated in the outflow tract, where the nexus glia has been discovered. The experts believe it’s too early to tell, but the discovery might open up new options for future research.
“We don’t fully understand the role of these cells, but the idea that removing them causes heart rates to rise might be linked to specific illness instances,” says Cody Smith, the study’s main researcher. “I think these glial cells could play a pretty important role in regulating the heart. 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.”