Regenerative Potential of Neonatal Porcine Hearts [Original Research Article]

Background—Rodent hearts can regenerate myocardium lost to apical resection or myocardial infarction for up to 7 days after birth, but whether a similar window for myocardial regeneration also exists in large mammals is unknown. Methods—Acute myocardial infarction (AMI) was surgically induced in neonatal pigs on postnatal days 1, 2, 3, 7, and 14 (i.e., the P1, P2, P3, P7, and P14 groups, respectively). Cardiac systolic function was evaluated before AMI and at 30 days post AMI via transthoracic echocardiography. Cardiomyocyte cell cycle activity was assessed via immunostaining for proliferation and mitosis markers, infarct size was evaluated histologically, and telomerase activity was measured by quantitative PCR. Results—Systolic function at day 30 post- AMI was largely restored in P1 animals and partially restored in P2 animals, but significantly impaired when AMI was induced on postnatal day 3 or later. Hearts of P1 animals showed little evidence of scar formation or wall thinning on day 30 after AMI, with increased measures of cell-cycle activity seen six days after AMI (i.e. postnatal day 7) compared to postnatal day 7 in noninfarcted hearts. Conclusions—The neonatal porcine heart is capable of regeneration following AMI during the first 2 days of life. This phenomenon is associated with induction of cardiomyocyte proliferation, and is lost when cardiomyocytes exit cell cycle shortly after birth.