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By delivering a viral payload of gene silencers directly to the heart, scientists have developed a new strategy for regenerating cardiac muscle after damage from a heart attack. Described in a paper published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine, the approach led to new cell growth and improved heart function in pigs.

The findings, though preliminary, indicate it’s possible to prod cardiac muscle cells into regenerating, at least long enough to stave off some of the worst after-effects of a heart attack. If the gene therapy bears out as safe and effective in further testing, it might someday be used to address the root cause of heart failure — one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.

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