A coding gene has been shown to regenerate cells in pig hearts, which may help repair structural damage caused by heart attacks.
Cardiologists at King’s College London delivered a small piece of genetic material, microRNA-199, to the damaged hearts, resulting in almost a complete recovery of cardiac function a month later.
Professor Mauro Giacca, lead author of the study, said: “After so many unsuccessful attempts at regenerating the heart using stem cells, which have all failed so far, for the first time we see real cardiac repair in a large animal.”
When a patient survives a heart attack, they are left with tissue damage. Healing of the affected heart muscle takes about eight weeks, but a scar forms that does not contract as well as healthy heart muscle. This permanent structural damage can lead to heart failure in later life.
The study, published in Nature, says there is an unmet need for treatments for this condition, which is particularly due to the inability of cardiac cell muscles to replicate and regenerate tissue.
Professor Giacca and his team at the School of Cardiovascular Medicine & Sciences at King’s will continue to work towards clinical trials involving human patients, which may take some time.
Myocardial infarction, known commonly as a heart attack, is the main cause of heart failure, which affects more than 23 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.