Researchers at Sant’Anna, the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the G. Monasterio Foundation, University of Trieste, and King’s College London have developed a new therapy approach to spur the repair of damaged tissue after suffering a heart attack.

Gene therapy that can stimulate cardiac repair

The study, published in Nature on 8 May, was performed in pigs and demonstrated that viral delivery of the human microribonucleic acid (miRNA)-199a stimulated cardiac repair in infarcted hearts.

After delivery of the therapeutic miRNA, post-infarction pig hearts demonstrated increased contractility, reduced scarring, and increased muscle mass. Subsequent to these marked improvements, many of the pigs in the study died due to sudden cardiac events. The investigators noted that although the initial regeneration results were positive, continued and sustained expression of miRNA-199a remained uncontrolled over time and resulted in the malformation of new heart tissue that failed to maintain its proper function. This uncontrolled expression was caused by the viral vectors that were used to deliver a permanent expression of miRNA-199a. The investigators also noted that further study will be required to determine a delivery method that is appropriate to initiate a regeneration response while remaining a transitory treatment.

Hydrogel patch

Several approaches to treat and prevent heart attack are currently in development. Researchers at Brown, Soochow, Fudan, and Hebei University are developing a hydrogel patch that has demonstrated the ability to reduce heart damage post heart attack.

Another group, led by Dr Sekar Kathiresan at Harvard Medical School, seeks to prevent heart attacks through developing a gene therapy treatment that would permanently lower the bad cholesterol in individuals at risk of suffering a myocardial infarction. Combined, these approaches address heart attack treatment before, during, and after a myocardial infarction event.

In the US alone, GlobalData predicts there are over 6.8 million prevalent cases of myocardial infarction, with over 670,000 incident cases. Given the size of this patient pool both in the US and globally, treatments that target heart attack before, during, or after the event would be commercially lucrative therapies, especially for major players that seek to be first to market.

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