The Love Hormone Can Heal a Truly Broken Heart

Medscape Staff

November 28, 2022

The so-called love hormone, which is related to bonding and love. may be able to help to heal damage following a heart attack, according to researchers from Michigan State University.

What to Know

  • Oxytocin is a neuropeptide hormone that acts as a chemical messenger to the brain and is known as the love hormone because it promotes social bonds and generates pleasurable feelings from many things, including art, exercise, or sex.

  • Zebrafish have an extraordinary capacity for regenerating organs, including brain, retina, internal organs, bone, and skin. Because of oxytocin, are even capable of regrowing their heart after as much as a quarter of it has been lost.

  • In zebrafish and human cell cultures, oxytocin has been found to be capable of activating heart repair mechanisms in injured hearts by stimulating stem cells derived from the heart’s outer layer (epicardium) to migrate into its middle layer (myocardium) and there develop into cardiomyocytes, which are the muscle cells that generate heart contractions.

  • In humans, cardiomyocytes typically die off in great numbers after a heart attack, but a subset of cells called epicardium-derived progenitor cells (EpiPCs), triggered by oxytocin, can regenerate not only cardiomyocytes but also other types of heart cells.

  • Oxytocin has an effect on human tissue in vitro that is similar to its effect in zebrafish, stimulating cultures of human induced pluripotent stem cells to become EpiPCs at up to twice the base rate.

  • The link between oxytocin and the stimulation of EpiPCs is important in regulating the growth, differentiation, and migration of cells, so oxytocin might be able to be repurposed for patients after heart damage so that even if heart regeneration is only partial, the benefits for patients could be enormous.

This is a summary of the article, "Oxytocin Promotes Epicardial Cell Activation and Heart Regeneration After Cardiac Injury," published in Frontiers in Cellular Biology on September 30, 2022. The full article can be found on

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