Heart attack victims could be spared irreparable damage with pioneering gene therapy breakthrough
- Researcher identified genes which are ‘switched on’ in cells after heart attacks
- This breakthrough may see gene therapy treat heart attack victims in future
- This could spare irreversible damage which may leaf to permanent heart failure
Heart attack victims could soon be treated with pioneering gene therapy to spare them irreversible damage – following a scientific breakthrough.
British researchers have identified specific harmful genes that are ‘switched on’ in cells following heart attacks – causing patients to develop permanent heart failure.
About 200,000 Britons are diagnosed with heart failure each year, in most cases following a heart attack.
Dr Brittan said therapies could be injected soon after a heart attack to ‘switch off’ genes that lead to damage (stock photo used)
There is no cure for the debilitating and life-shortening condition.
But world-leading research by a team at the University of Edinburgh has uncovered crucial genetic changes linked to damage following a heart attack.
This has paved the way for cutting-edge treatment options that have the potential to stop millions developing incurable heart failure in the future.
Scientists analysed samples of tissue from the old hearts of patients who had recently had a heart attack and received a transplant.
They compared this with healthy heart tissue – so they could ‘pinpoint’ the exact genes expressed in damaged blood vessels and heart cells.
Experts are now working to develop gene therapies, which could be injected after a heart attack to prevent genetic changes causing long-term cell damage.
Dr Mairi Brittan, who is leading the research, told the Daily Mail it was a ‘huge breakthrough’, adding: ‘We can essentially map the gene expression of a human patient’s heart attack, which has never been possible before.
‘When a patient has a heart attack, millions of cells immediately die. Afterwards the cells continue to die, the damage can spread and that’s what causes heart failure.
‘We want to find treatments that can be given to patients at an early stage to prevent heart failure occurring.
‘We’re studying patients who have recently had a heart attack and looking at the genes that are switched on, and therefore may be good targets for gene therapies.’
Gene therapy involves altering the genes inside the body’s cells – for example by infecting them with a harmless virus that has been genetically engineered to replace or de-activate a defective gene.
Dr Brittan said therapies could be injected soon after a heart attack to ‘switch off’ genes that lead to damage.
World-leading research by a team at the University of Edinburgh has uncovered crucial genetic changes linked to damage following a heart attack (stock image used)
They could also stimulate genes that help cells in the blood vessels and heart to repair themselves after a heart attack.
She added: ‘Several other species, like the zebrafish, can repair their own heart muscle, and we want to replicate this in humans.
‘We want to target genes and promote more successful repair that would, in turn, salvage the damaged areas of heart muscle.
‘We would want to look at [a gene therapy] that would travel to the blood vessels and the heart. So if you introduce it, it would promote the blood vessel growth and regeneration.’
Nearly one million people in the UK live with heart failure, and about 100,000 people are admitted to hospital with a heart attack each year.
Dr Brittan’s research is funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which is aiming to raise £3 million for studies into regenerative medicine as Charity of the Year for the 2022 TCS London Marathon.
Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the BHF said: ‘This project, and seven others, will push the boundaries of what science can achieve so that almost one million people will not have to suffer the effects of this debilitating condition.
‘Such innovative research could lead to a big advance in how we treat heart failure.’
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk