Scientists in Canada say they've found a way to trick the heart, making it behave as if it were the beneficiary of exercise even if no exercise was able to be done. According to a study in Cell Research, the Ottawa researchers discovered that protein cardiotrophin 1 (CT1) can fuel healthy heart growth, repair heart damage, and cause the heart to pump more blood in cases of left heart failure, as a result of heart attack, and right heart failure, as a result of high blood pressure in the lungs, reports Medical News Today. It's a big deal since medications used to treat left heart failure don't work on right heart failure, which usually requires a heart transplant, per a release.
Exercise can be beneficial because it boosts the heart's ability to pump blood, but "people with heart failure usually can't exercise," researcher Lynn Megeney tells the Ottawa Citizen. The heart usually responds by expanding, irreversibly, in an unhealthy way. But that's why CT1 is "very exciting," Megeney says. It "causes heart muscles to grow in a more healthy way and it also stimulates blood vessel growth in the heart," increasing blood flow just like with exercise. And just like with exercise, the heart returns to its original size afterward. Megeney says the discovery could lead to fewer heart transplants, but he says it could be two or three years before researchers begin clinical trials on humans and, assuming they go well, a decade before treatment is available to the public. (To avoid heart issues, avoid beer?)