New York: An anti-cancer agent in development promotes regeneration of damaged heart muscle, says a study.
The researchers believe that the finding may help prevent congestive heart failure in the future.
Many parts of the body, such as blood cells and the lining of the gut, continuously renew throughout life. Others, such as the heart, do not.
Because of the heart’s inability to repair itself, damage caused by a heart attack causes permanent scarring that frequently results in serious weakening of the heart, known as heart failure.
In testing the anti-cancer agent, the researchers saw many predictable adverse effects — in bone and hair, for example.
“But one surprise was that the number of dividing cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells) was slightly increased,” said senior study author Lawrence Lum, Associate Professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre in the US.
For years, Lum has worked to develop a cancer drug targeting Wnt signalling molecules. These molecules are crucial for tissue regeneration, but also frequently contribute to cancer.
Essential to the production of Wnt proteins in humans is the porcupine (Porcn) enzyme, so-named because fruit fly embryos lacking this gene resemble a porcupine.
Based on their initial results, the researchers induced heart attacks in mice and then treated them with a porcupine inhibitor.
With the treatment, their hearts’ ability to pump blood improved by nearly twofold compared to untreated animals, showed the findings published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“We hope to advance a Porcn inhibitor into clinical testing as a regenerative agent for heart disease within the next year,” Lum said.