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When Thomas Braun was starting out as a young professor at Germany’s University of Würzburg in 1997, he decided to try his hand at a new field: heart regeneration, a sci-fi-esque premise that could offer a way to treat patients recovering from a heart attack. He thought it would take a few years before they got results.

“We were,” he acknowledges now, “rather naïve.”

But on Thursday, after two and a half decades of fitful starts and abandoned leads, Braun and a team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute showed that they could reprogram heart cells in mice and get the animals to regenerate cardiac tissue after a heart attack. The breakthrough, published in Scienceadds new evidence that it will eventually be possible to help patients recover muscle lost in heart attacks and gives another boon to anti-aging researchers who want to one day apply these rejuvenation techniques across much of the body.


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