02/24/2011 04:47 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Scientists Discover Mice's Hearts Can Heal Themselves, Are Other Mammals Next?

New research published online today in the journal Science found that newborn mice can regenerate working heart tissue.

So what's the big whoop? Scientists already knew that certain amphibians and fish could regenerate cardiac tissue.

Well that, it turns out, is what inspired researchers at the Southwestern Medical Center in Texas to consider the possibility that mammalian hearts could also regenerate. Given the similarities in the hearts of adult zebrafish -- which can regrow tissue -- and immature mammals, researchers wondered if they couldn't "conserve," as they put it, the same mechanisms of regeneration in mice.

The results? Within 21 days of scientists surgically removing a portion of the left ventricular apex from newborn mice, the tissue had completely regenerated. The problem, though, is that researchers found mice lost the capacity to regenerate cardiac tissue by the time they were seven days old.

The potential implications, the scientists report, is this: "For a brief period after birth, the mammalian heart appears to have the capacity to regenerate." Which means, according to The Guardian, potentially very good things for heart attack sufferers.

"Now that we know that the mammalian heart indeed possesses the potential to regenerate, at least early in life," Eric Olson, one of the study's authors told The Guardian, "we can begin to search for drugs or genes or other things that might reawaken this potential in the adult heart of mice and eventually of humans."