Zebrafish heart regeneration: 15 years of discoveries

Regeneration (Oxf). 2017 Sep 28;4(3):105-123. doi: 10.1002/reg2.83. eCollection 2017 Jun.


Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Compared to other organs such as the liver, the adult human heart lacks the capacity to regenerate on a macroscopic scale after injury. As a result, myocardial infarctions are responsible for approximately half of all cardiovascular related deaths. In contrast, the zebrafish heart regenerates efficiently upon injury through robust myocardial proliferation. Therefore, deciphering the mechanisms that underlie the zebrafish heart's endogenous regenerative capacity represents an exciting avenue to identify novel therapeutic strategies for inducing regeneration of the human heart. This review provides a historical overview of adult zebrafish heart regeneration. We summarize 15 years of research, with a special focus on recent developments from this fascinating field. We discuss experimental findings that address fundamental questions of regeneration research. What is the origin of regenerated muscle? How is regeneration controlled from a genetic and molecular perspective? How do different cell types interact to achieve organ regeneration? Understanding natural models of heart regeneration will bring us closer to answering the ultimate question: how can we stimulate myocardial regeneration in humans?

Keywords: cardiomyocyte proliferation; heart regeneration; myocardial infarction; zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Review