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Surprising Protein Therapy Could Reduce Heart Failure by Minimizing Heart Attack Scars

Researchers have discovered a new therapy can reduce the harm caused by the scar tissue that forms in the wake of a heart attack.

After a heart attack, scar tissue forms, hurting heart function and contributing to heart disease’s status as one of the most deadly conditions in the world. Thankfully, researchers recently discovered that protein therapy could reduce the impact of this scar tissue.

What Did the Study Find?

After infusing recombinant human platelet-derived growth factor-AB (rhPDGF-AB) into subjects that have had a heart attack, researchers saw the protein therapy aided in the formation of new blood vessels in the heart and reduced the rate of dangerous heart arrhythmia.

The research, published in Science Translational Medicine, relied on pre-clinical, large-animal models.

“Our findings would be relevant for anyone who cares for patients with large myocardial infarcts and especially ischemic heart failure,” James Chong, Ph.D., FRACP, MBBS, lead author, said. “I envisage it being used to improve cardiac function, increase survival and decrease ventricular arrhythmias after large myocardial infarcts.”

Dr. Chong noted that although the treatment didn’t affect the overall scar size, researchers found that rhPDGF led to increased scar collagen fiber alignment and strength, which improved heart function after a heart attack.

“To my knowledge, there are no treatments currently available that directly impact myocardial infarct scar in the way our protein treatment does,” he explained.

Why Does the Study Matter?

Heart attacks damage the heart muscle and form thick scar tissue. They limit the heart’s ability to function efficiently and heighten the risk of heart failure. Current treatments to reduce scarring aim to restore blood and oxygen supply to the heart as rapidly as possible. While this improves clinical outcomes, close to 25% of individuals with only one heart attack will develop heart failure in a year.

“While we have treatment protocols in place, it’s clear that there is an urgent, unmet need for additional treatments to improve patient outcomes, particularly after large heart attacks,” Dr. Chong said. “RhPDGF-AB is a promising therapeutic option and could be used alongside existing treatments to improve heart attack patient outcomes and survival rates.”

What Comes Next?

Dr. Chong says researchers will need to conduct further studies to prove the treatment is safe. Then, the team will proceed to human clinical trials, which he estimates are still two to three years away. He also plans to test the therapy in other organ systems negatively impacted by scar tissue, such as the kidneys.

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