Heart health is set for a shake up as researchers have found that cells in scars caused by heart attacks in animals can be reprogrammed into functioning muscle cells through a cocktail of three specific genes. Adding a gene that stimulates blood vessel growth further speeds up the process.
Dr Todd K Rosengart, the report’s corresponding author, says, “The idea of reprogramming scar tissue in the heart into functioning heart muscle was exciting … the theory is that if you have a big heart attack, your doctor can just inject these three genes into the scar tissue during surgery and change it back into heart muscle… we found that the effect is enhanced when combined with the VEGF gene.”
How the study was carried out …
The Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) gene enhances blood vessel growth. This is the key to success of changing scar tissue back into heart muscle, to strengthen a heart weakened by restricted blood supply following multiple heart attacks. Three weeks after injection of the VEGF gene, GMT or ‘transcription factor’ genes was used to bind specific DNA sequences and start translating the genetic information into protein.
It was found that the GMT genes alone reduced the amount of scar tissue by half compared to a control group and increased the amount of heart muscle cells. These hearts also pumped blood out of filled ventricles better than those of the control group.
Revolutionary heart attack treatment programme will result from the study
While Rosengart says more work needs to be done, the study shows promise as part of a revolutionary heart attack treatment programme that actually repairs damage to the muscle.
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