A New Kind of Cell Discovered in The Heart Seems to Be Critical For Your Heartbeat

The discovery of a new type of cell in the heart that is linked to regulating heart rate will lead to better understanding of cardiovascular defects and diseases.

The glial cell is a type of cell that supports nerve cells in the central nervous system. The outflow tract of the heart is where many congenital heart defects are found.

The new cell type was first found in a fish. When cells were removed, the heart rate increased and the heartbeat became irregular.

"We don't know the function of these cells, but the idea that if you get rid of them, heart rates increase, could link it to certain disease cases," says Smith from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

glial cells could be an important part of regulating the heart.

It took a lot of detective work to find the glia cells. It was thought that star-shaped glia could only be found in the brain and spine, but new research shows that they can be found in the heart.

Astroglia cells are important to the central nervous system because they help maintain the cellular environment for neurons and provide support and nutrition for them as well. The researchers think it's plausible that they should be found in the peripheral nervous system too.

Different types of glial cells have been found in other organs, but their function isn't yet understood. The team was looking for new types of cells.

"I thought that if we could find a new cellular piece to the cardiovascular puzzle, it could be the beginning of a new field of research," says Kikel- Coury.

A combination of scientific techniques, including time-lapse images and single-cell sequencing, showed the presence of nexus glia in cells which appear to support heart function and regulation.

It's going to take more time to learn about these cells and their functions, but they could be linked to a variety of medical conditions, including something called dysautonomia, caused by breakdowns in the normal workings of the autonomic nervous system.

Another avenue for future research is analyzing other key organs in the body for cells similar to the one in the glia, hidden away, providing crucial support to the way that our biological systems function.

Smith says that the definition of great science is something that opens up even more questions.

We're following up on the 100 questions we didn't know existed because we discovered a path that has never been studied before.

The research has been published.