Skip to Content

Born-Again Heart

Hydra BioSciences’ drugs could rejuvenate damaged hearts by helping cardiac muscle regrow.
June 1, 2004

Conventional wisdom holds that, with the exception of skin and blood cells, most tissues in the body do not normally regenerate. But recent research has uncovered some surprising biological mechanisms that indicate that the body does in fact have the potential to repair some other vital tissues. Hoping to exploit this work, a Harvard University and University of Utah startup, Hydra BioSciences, is seeking to develop drugs that it says will repair damage from heart attacks.

Hydra’s focus is on heart attack survivors-a group joined by hundreds of thousands of people in the United States every year-who are often left with damaged, scarred cardiac tissue that could lead to complete heart failure later in life. Current drugs don’t repair the tissue, so Hydra is working on new treatments that will nudge mature heart-muscle cells to multiply again and ultimately form new, beating muscle. The three-year-old company’s first project is to develop drugs that would be given to patients within a few weeks after a heart attack to trigger regrowth of the healthy cells near the injured area and prevent the heart from weakening and scarring. A similar therapeutic strategy could eventually work for a wide range of ailments and injuries, such as type I diabetes, retinal degeneration, spinal-cord injury, and Parkinson’s disease, says Mark Keating, Hydra’s cofounder and a researcher at Children’s Hospital Boston.

In January, Hydra raised almost $19 million in second-round venture financing. And it has also made progress on discovering drug candidates. It recently isolated a protein that may stimulate cell growth in the heart and hopes to begin testing it in animals by the beginning of next year. “If this works, we can regenerate the heart and create newer, younger, better cells,” says Piero Anversa, director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the New York Medical College.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.

This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting

With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.

This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine

Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.