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According to a study, injecting tropoelastin a few days after a heart attack could heal the scars left by this event.
In the US according to the CDC, some 805,000 people suffer a heart attack each year. This cardiac event can be defined as the destruction of a part of the heart muscle. This often leaves after-effects, especially a scar on the heart, which becomes damaged as a result.
A scar that prevents the heart from functioning properly
This scar does not have the same elasticity and flexibility as a healthy heart muscle. So even if a person survives a heart attack, he or she may develop complications because pumping and transporting blood no longer works as well.
But researchers may have found a way to prevent this side effect and restore elasticity and flexibility to scar tissue. Their work was published in the journal Circulation Research.
Their method involves injecting tropoelastin, a protein that forms elastin in elastic tissue. “Tropoelastin can repair the heart because it is an exact replica of the body’s natural elastic protein,” explained Professor Anthony Weiss, one of the authors, in a statement.
Tropoelastin restores muscle elasticity after a myocardial infarction
To achieve this result, the scientists tested tropoelastin in the laboratory on rats. To inject it, they chose a new surgical method that uses ultrasound to guide the needle into the heart wall.
They found that a single injection of this product into the heart wall four days after myocardial infarction could restore the elasticity of the cardiac scar. And the results were convincing: after 28 days, the researchers found that the heart muscle, initially damaged by the infarction, had regained its elasticity. Better yet, its muscle function – including its ability to pump and transport blood – resembled what it had before the infarction.
“This study highlights the potential of tropoelastin in cardiac repair and suggests that further work may demonstrate its potential for future treatments and therapies,” said Dr. Robert Hume, principal investigator of the study.
Cardiac cells able to self-heal with tropoelastin
Further tests also showed that tropoelastin injection reduced the size of the scar and increased its elastin content. Finally, experiments were also performed with human cardiac fibroblasts, a subset of cardiac cells. Tropoelastin enabled them to produce elastin on their own.
What we have discovered is very encouraging,” says James Chong, one of the authors. We hope to develop the method further so that we can use it in a clinical setting to treat and improve the lives of millions of heart failure patients worldwide.