Page URL:

Genetic therapy fixes damaged hearts in pigs

13 May 2019
Appeared in BioNews 998

For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that a genetic therapy can regenerate heart tissue after heart attack injury in a large mammal.

'It is a very exciting moment for the field,' said lead researcher Professor Mauro Giacca at King's College London. 'After so many unsuccessful attempts at regenerating the heart using stem cells, which all have failed so far, for the first time we see real cardiac repair in a large animal.'

Cardiac muscle cells do not regenerate in mammals after birth. So after a heart attack, the cardiac muscle remains permanently damaged, which often leads to heart failure and death.

The team showed that injecting a piece of human genetic material called microRNA-199 into pigs after a heart attack stimulated cardiac repair. One month after the heart attack and treatment, all the treated animals showed improvement in their cardiac function, as well as increased cardiac muscle mass and reduced scar tissue.

MicroRNA-199 had previously been shown to stimulate cardiac muscle cells to enter the cell cycle, leading to more cell division and an increase in heart muscle cell production.

In the new study, the microRNA was delivered to the heart using a harmless virus. Pigs were used as their anatomy and organ structure is very similar to humans.

While this process initially resulted in production of more heart cells that healed the existing damage, it could not be stopped once the heart regenerated. This led to overproduction of cardiomyocytes. As a consequence, most of the treated pigs died of sudden arrhythmic death.

'It will take some time before we can proceed to clinical trials,' said Professor Giacca. 'We still need to learn how to administer the RNA as a synthetic molecule in large animals and then in patients, but we already know this works well in mice.'

'A treatment that helps the heart repair itself after a heart attack is the holy grail for cardiologists,' said Professor Ajay Shah, British Heart Foundation chair of cardiology at King's College London. 'Professor Giacca's study convincingly demonstrates for the first time that this might actually be feasible and not just a pipe-dream. It's a very exciting advance in the field.'

Heart attacks affect approximately 920,000 people in the UK alone. The new study was published in Nature.

Genetic therapy heals damage caused by heart attack
King's College London |  8 May 2019
Genetic Therapy Repairs Heart Attack Damage in Pigs
Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News |  9 May 2019
Medical breakthrough raises hopes for heart attack patients
iNews |  9 May 2019
MicroRNA therapy stimulates uncontrolled cardiac repair after myocardial infarction in pigs
Nature |  8 May 2019
2 December 2019 - by Dr Rosie Morley 
Stem cell therapies may become redundant in repairing cardiac function after a heart attack, suggests a new study in mice...
5 August 2019 - by Dr Yvonne Collins 
The Japanese Government has approved the first human-animal embryo experiments which could eventually lead to a new source of organs for transplant...
9 July 2018 - by Dr Lanay Griessner 
Injecting stem cell-derived cardiac cells after a heart attack may help repair damaged tissue, according to a study published in Nature Biotechnology...
30 May 2017 - by Annabel Slater 
US scientists have delayed cancer cell growth by using genome editing to remove a protein...
26 September 2016 - by Ebtehal Moussa 
A new gene therapy technique using microRNAs has successfully prevented the spread of breast cancer in mice...
27 August 2013 - by Lanay Tierney 
Researchers have concocted a 'gene cocktail' that may help to turn scar tissue into functioning cardiac cells after a heart attack...
8 February 2010 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have discovered that microRNA (miRNA) play a key role in the switch in state between a stem cell and a mature, differentiated cell...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.