The study showed that tiny fragments of genetic material called microRNA could play a key role in the development of heart disease.
The new approach suggested by the US and German researchers could effectively block microRNA in heart cells. MicroRNA regulates the gene activity, but with many different types present in the cell, scientists are trying to establish which plays the biggest role.
For the study, the team has focused its study on microRNA-21, and their role in a type of heart cell called the cardiac fibroblast, which helps provide the structure of the organ, and plays a critical role in the progressive scarring which stops it working properly in heart disease.
They discovered that cells in a weak heart had increased levels of this microRNA, and linked it to a chemical signalling pathway, which leads to the tissue damage found in the condition.
Then with the help of a chemical, which inhibits microRNA-21, they found that not only that this pathway was interrupted, but that cardiac function in the mice also improved. Professor Eric Olson, from the University of Texas South-western Medical Centre, whose own research focuses on microRNAs and heart disease, dubbed the results “exciting”.
“This is one of the hottest topics in biology at the moment,” BBC quoted him as saying.
“Micro-RNAs are being very seriously considered as a therapeutic target – there is a lot of promise and potential in this area.
“This research suggests you can reverse or prevent aspects of heart disease,” he added. The study appears in journal Nature.