RNA therapy can help restore the heart after a heart attack

(ORDO NEWS) — Injections of RNA “instructions” for protein synthesis triggered the active growth of heart muscle cells and allowed laboratory mice to fully recover from a heart attack in just a month.

Scientists from the University of Houston have demonstrated a new approach to the restoration of the heart muscle after a heart attack. To do this, cells return to the state of stem cells with the help of special RNA molecules, after which they independently regenerate damaged tissues.

Such therapy proved to be excellent in experiments with laboratory mice: a month after the model heart attack, the animals almost completely recovered. This is reported in a couple of articles ( 1 , 2 ) published in The Journal of Cardiovascular Aging.

Cardiac muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) recover extremely poorly after damage. As a rule, the matter ends with the formation of a semi-living scarred tissue that is not able to contract. This leads to weakened heart function and an increased risk of new heart attacks.

That is why scientists and doctors pay special attention to the restoration of heart muscle cells and are actively trying to stimulate such processes. One of the areas of work is the ” reprogramming ” of cells with their temporary return to the state of stem, actively dividing and growing.

Robert Schwartz and colleagues at the University of Houston have identified a pair of proteins that act as transcription factors.

Experiments with cell cultures of cardiomyocytes in vitro have shown that, by regulating the activity of certain genes, Stemin and YAP5SA stimulate cell division and growth.

This work is the subject of the first of the articles published recently by scientists. The second describes the first experiments with Stemin and YAP5SA in vivo, on laboratory animals.

RNA therapy can help restore the heart after a heart attack 2
Damaged areas of the heart in mice treated with an mRNA cocktail (right) actively regenerated, while in animals of the control group (left) almost did not recover

To deliver protein factors to the body, the authors encoded them as messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules. Such molecules can serve as instructions for ribosomes, triggering the synthesis of the corresponding proteins right inside the cell – we recall that it is this approach that underlies some successful Covid-19 vaccines (including the vaccine created by Moderna and Pfizer) and is being actively tested to create drugs against other viral diseases . diseases.

Scientists synthesized the necessary mRNA and injected them into the heart muscle of model mice after suffering a “heart attack” – such animals undergo targeted manipulations that create appropriate heart lesions in them.

Within a day, their cardiomyocytes were dividing 15 times more actively than in mice that did not receive the experimental drug, and the restoration of damaged tissues was much faster. A month later, the functions of the heart recovered almost completely, without the formation of scarred tissue.

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