Love hormone ‘Oxytocin’ could be the ‘magic bullet’ to heal a broken heart
Other loving touches, including hugging a teddy bear to stroking your pet dog, can also reportedly trigger the hormone’s release. iStock
A latest study suggests that the ‘love hormone’, or oxytocin may have the power to heal a broken heart.
Scientists in Michigan have discovered that oxytocin which is produced by our body when we fall in love, cuddle or have sex, may also have the ability to repair cells in an injured heart.
The chemical is also released during lovemaking, and this is why it has earned the nickname ‘the cuddle hormone’.
When a person suffers a heart attack their cardiomyocytes, which allow it to contract, die off in vast quantities, explains the Daily Mail. Cardiomyocytes enable the heart to pump blood, and when they are damaged, they cannot be repaired because they are highly specialized cells.
However, the good news is that researchers have found that oxytocin stimulates stem cells in the heart’s outer layer, which migrate to its middle layer and turn into cardiomyocytes.
Though the findings have so far only been in zebrafish and human cells in a lab, it is hoped that one day the love hormone which is released naturally from the brain into our blood and also for other mammals during social and sexual behaviors could be used to develop a treatment.
Other loving touches, including hugging a teddy bear to stroking your pet dog, can also reportedly trigger the hormone’s release.
Speaking about the results of the study, the lead author of the study Dr Aitor Aguirre, an assistant professor in biology at Michigan State University, is reported to have said, “Here we show that oxytocin is capable of activating heart repair mechanisms in injured hearts in zebrafish and human cell cultures, opening the door to potential new therapies for heart regeneration in humans.”
Previous studies have shown that some cells in the outer layer of the heart can go through reprogramming and become makeshift cardiomyocytes.
But it is not possible for humans to do this on their own.
This led researchers to investigate whether zebrafish, which have a unique ability to regenerate body parts such as brains, bones, and skin, could hold the key.
While the zebrafish don’t suffer heart attacks, their predators sometimes bite out their organs, including their hearts.
However, due to an abundance of cardiomyocytes, and other cells which can be reprogrammed, zebrafish can regenerate up to a quarter of their organs.
It was found that within three days of a heart injury, oxytocin levels rose by up to 20 times in the brain.
Researchers also discovered that the oxytocin hormone is directly involved in the heart-mending process.
Most significantly, oxytocin was found to have a similar effect on human tissue in a test tube.
Therefore, according to researchers, oxytocin might be the “magic bullet” to speed up the process of mending a heart.
Dr Aguirre is quoted as saying, “Oxytocin is widely used in the clinic for other reasons, so repurposing for patients after heart damage is not a long stretch of the imagination.
“Even if heart regeneration is only partial, the benefits for patients could be enormous.
“Next, we need to look at oxytocin in humans after cardiac injury. Oxytocin itself is short-lived in circulation, so its effects in humans might be hindered by that.
Drugs specifically designed with a longer half-life or more potency might be useful in this setting. Overall, pre-clinical trials in animals and clinical trials in humans are necessary to move forward,” he concludes.
The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology.