(Philadelphia, PA) - Researchers at the University
of Pennsylvania School of Medicine are utilizing a protein
to “switch on” the ability to repair damaged heart tissue.
By triggering the cell-cycle signal, researchers can manipulate
cells in animal models to regenerate damaged heart tissue. If this
research is someday successfully translated to humans, it could
change the approach to treating heart disease, the nation’s
leading killer. The findings, now on-line, are in Circulation,
the journal of the American Heart Association. This research work
was a collaboration of investigators from Penn as well as Columbia
"This is a different concept in terms of how to address heart disease. The classic thinking is to replace a valve, or place a bypass graft. Traditionally, when the heart gets injured, there's dead tissue, and we work our way around it surgically, even replacing the heart with a transplant," explains principal investigator Joseph Woo, MD, Director of the Minimally Invasive and Robotic Cardiac Surgery Program at Penn and Assistant Professor of Surgery. "So we asked, 'What would be the most ideal, natural way of fixing any sort of problem like this?' If you look at nature, the best way is to simply re-grow the tissue. We know that if we take out a piece of the liver, our body has programming to grow it back to how it was."
However, unless the body receives some sort of "jump start," it does not heal dead tissue in the heart. This can have devastating effects. When tissue dies in the heart (for example, due to a heart attack), it is not able to contract and function as effectively to pump oxygenated blood throughout the body, which could ultimately lead to heart failure and death.
Working to better understand how to reverse this damage in humans,
in an earlier study, researchers at Columbia University first identified
the signals in the rat heart that currently prevent the ability
to re-grow damaged heart tissue. Then, the team of researchers from
Penn and Columbia worked to manipulate those signals so the heart
could work to regenerate itself.
Specifically, in this study, researchers investigated myocardial
regeneration by initiating heart cell division and replication.
They did this by expressing the cell-cycle regulator, a protein
called cyclin A2. It is unique in its control at two major transitions
of the cell cycle and is the only cyclin that is completely silenced
after birth in mice, rats and humans. This approach -- using cyclin
A2 expression via gene transfer -- yielded improved myocardial function.
“This research with damaged heart tissue ramps up the body's
native reparative system,” states Woo. “We are examining
the potential role of this regenerative strategy as a future therapy
for heart failure. Someday, this could lead to less surgery and
perhaps even less medicine in treating heart disease.” Woo
cautions that this research work has not yet been done on humans
and that we may still be years away from that accomplishment.
The results of this study are now posted on-line in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association. The article is titled "Therapeutic Delivery of Cyclin A2 Induces Myocardial Regeneration and Enhances Cardiac Function in Ischemic Heart Failure." Co-authors are Corinna Panlilio; George Liao; Pavan Atluri; Vivian Hsu; and Jeffrey Cohen of Penn; as well as Richard Cheng and Hina Chaudhry of Columbia University.
This study was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.
PENN Medicine is a $2.9 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
Penn's School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt
of NIH research funds; and ranked #3 in the nation in U.S. News
& World Report's most recent ranking of top research-oriented
medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students,
the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior
education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists
and leaders of academic medicine.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three
hospitals [Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania
Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical
Center]; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network;
two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home care and hospice.