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Hope for heart regeneration treatment

Tuesday July 10th, 2018

A treatment that can regenerate the heart after myocardial infarction was unveiled last night.

A research team from the University of Oxford, UK, has found that injecting VEGF-C protein after heart attacks in mice significantly reduced the amount of damaged heart muscle, thus resulting in the heart recovering almost all of its pumping function.

However, in untreated mice, almost half lost their heart function after a heart attack, the study, which was funded by the British Heart Foundation, found.

The scientists behind the discovery hope their findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, could lead to new treatments being available in the next five-10 years.

Lead researcher Paul Riley, BHF professor of regenerative medicine who also heads the BHF Centre of Regenerative Medicine in Oxford and Cambridge, said: “We started looking at the lymphatic system in the heart a few years ago – we could never have known how pivotal it might turn out to be for heart repair.

“We now know that it’s not enough to just get healing immune cells into the heart. We need to boost the routes that remove these immune cells once they’ve done their job, so that they don’t start causing more harm and ultimately contribute to the long-term damage that leads to heart failure.

“This research has allowed us to start a drug discovery programme to develop drugs to promote the growth of lymphatic vessels and quickly clear immune cells. We hope to get a treatment we could give to people after a heart attack within five to ten years.”

The research team found that the VEGF-C treatment promoted growth of a network of vessels that form part of the lymphatic system and that the extra lymphatic vessels allow the immune cells to clear quickly after helping to repair dying and dead cells, but before they can cause significant damage from inflammation.

This treatment led to better healing in the heart and better recovery of the heart’s pumping function after a heart attack.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Heart regeneration is the ‘holy grail’ of heart research. By building on their previous work, the team’s new findings bring us one step closer to understanding how to turn this into a reality.

“Exploiting the lymphatic system opens up new opportunities to find treatments that will limit the damage caused by a heart attack and promote regeneration. It’s only by funding important research such as this that we can hope to one day end heart failure.”

Vieira et al. Immunomodulation via the cardiac lymphatic system to improve heart repair. Journal of Clinical Investigation 9 July 2018

Tags: Heart Health | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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