Repairing Hearts Using Gene Therapy

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Heart attack damage to the heart is typically permanent. However, researchers have invented a new procedure for fixing the cardiac muscle after a heart attack by transporting gene silencers directly to the heart muscle. The gene silencers tone down the genes that promote healing.

In a new study that involves pigs, a pig’s heart closely resembles a human’s heart, and the latest treatment showed an increase in cardiac function and cell growth post-attack.

The Significance of the Study

The heart may mend itself and repair its tissue, but at a sloth’s pace, so it usually can’t fix the significant damage caused by a heart attack. Therefore, scar tissue grows after a heart attack instead of functional muscle tissue.

In five years after the first heart attack, 20% of those 45 and older will have another one.

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The Hippo Signalling Pathway

The Hippo signalling pathway controls cell growth and cell death in people and animals, and it is in control of organ size. So, for example, it will become more active when people have a heart attack, stopping the heart from healing.

Yet, briefly shutting off the Hippo signalling pathway in mice with hearts that mimic human heart attacks will let them recover, and their hearts start pumping blood again.

People who suffer from a heart attack have minimal therapy options. As of now, it has been next to impossible to repair heart muscles in humans following heart failure, no matter the amount of knowledge and technology.

The Pig’s Heart

Pig hearts are a great model for examining the human heart.

A study done through the Texas Heart Institute, Baylor College of Medicine, and Science Translational Medicine looked at two groups of pig’s heart function after a heart attack.

The researchers had given the first group gene therapy to turn off the Hippo signalling pathway, and the other group was left active.

They discovered that the pigs who received the therapy had more heart functionality than those who didn’t.

The pigs that were given the therapy had a 14.3% increase in their circulation of the left ventricle. Also, there was some heart muscle growth. They also were shown to have much less scarring than untreated pigs.

Human Trials for Gene Therapy Heart Study

The pigs who received the gene therapy increased their heart function and showed that their cardiomyocytes worked again. They also had less scarring, and they had formed new blood vessels.

In addition, the gene therapy was shown to be safe since the pigs tolerated the treatment very well.

The trials bring researchers one step closer to trying gene therapy in human studies.

Dean Mathers


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