In a groundbreaking finding, researchers have developed a technology that can help effectively treat heart diseases in humans. The technology repairs heart muscles in mice after a heart attack and also successfully regenerates them. Researchers, from the University of Houston, have used a synthetic messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) to deliver mutated transcription factors to the heart of the mouse. The transcription factors are the proteins that control the conversion of DNA into RNA.
In their study, published in The Journal of Cardiovascular Aging, the team conducted an experiment to show that two mutated transcription factors, Stemin and YAP5SA, work closely to increase the replication of heart muscle cells or cardiomyocytes in mice.
“What we are trying to do is dedifferentiate the cardiomyocyte into a more stem cell-like state so that they can regenerate and proliferate,” said Siyu Xiao, Ph.D graduate and co-author of the study. According to another co-author Dinakar Iyer, Stemin transcription proved to be a game-changer in their experiment. While Stemin triggers stem-like properties in cardiomyocytes, YAP5SA works on organ growth resulting in more replication of the myocytes.
Demonstrating the effects of Stemin and YAP5SA on the heart of the mouse, researchers, in a separate finding, showed that the transcription factors repaired the damaged heart. They observe that after the factors were injected, the myocytes replicated at least 15-fold in 24 hours.
“When both transcription factors were injected into infarcted adult mouse hearts, the results were stunning. The lab found cardiac myocytes multiplied quickly within a day, while hearts over the next month were repaired to near normal cardiac pumping function with little scarring,” said Robert Schwartz, lead author of the study.
According to Xiao, using mRNA, in the treatment, was better than vial delivery as it disappears in a few days. In addition, when gene therapy is delivered to cells using viral vectors, it comes with some biosafety concerns as it cannot be stopped easily.