Discovery may lead to targeted heart disease treatments

University of Guelph researchers have found the location and effect of abnormal heart proteins that can cause cardiac failure, a discovery that points to potential new ways to treat the most costly health problem in the world.

The study appears today in , a peer-reviewed international journal published by the Public Library of Science.

"In order to cure heart disease, you have to understand its fundamental properties," said study author John Dawson, a professor.

"So we looked at variants of naturally occurring proteins that are found in people with heart disease."

The research team included graduate students Maureen Mundia, Ryan Demers, Melissa Chow and Alexandru Perieteanu.

Heart disease and stroke is the leading cause of death in Canada, killing tens of thousands each year. Treating cardiovascular disease costs more than $20 billion a year in physician and hospital costs, lost wages and reduced productivity.

The study examined gene abnormalities for the actin protein and its role in .

As the most abundant protein in the body, actin helps in vital processes including muscle movement.

Abnormal actin genes are linked to heart diseases such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). HCM causes excessive thickening of the heart muscle and can lead to . Under DCM, the heart weakens and enlarges, and cannot pump blood efficiently.

Scientists had already linked HCM and DCM to 14 actin gene abnormalities. "But this is the first time that many of these variants have been studied at the molecular level," Dawson said.

Understanding the molecular deficiencies of actin variants is a starting point for figuring out the underlying mechanisms of heart diseases, he said.

The researchers inserted into to make heart muscle proteins for study. Dawson's lab is one of the few in the world able to do this work.

They then mapped where on the abnormalities occurred and their effects. Three were in spots that resulted in problems with heart contractions; three others were in locations that affected stability and efficiency.

Dawson hopes their work will help in developing more targeted treatments.

" has many different forms and variants. If we can design specific therapies that address the precise mechanisms of the things going on — treat the root cause rather than the whole system — then we can improve the quality of life for people."

Dawson belongs to a growing cardiovascular research group at the University of Guelph, one of few such groups worldwide studying cardiovascular disease from single molecules to animal models.

"It makes Guelph a unique place to do this research," he said.

More information: The study is available online: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0036821

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Novel gene found for dilated cardiomyopathy

Jul 13, 2009

Researchers in the Heart Institute at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center have discovered a novel gene responsible for heart muscle disease and chronic heart failure in some children and adults with dilated cardiomyopathy ...

Risk gene for severe heart disease discovered

Oct 21, 2010

Research led by Klaus Stark and Christian Hengstenberg of the University of Regensburg identified a common variant of the cardiovascular heat shock protein gene, HSPB7, which was found to increase risk for dilated cardiomyopathy ...

Key finding in rare muscle disease

Jan 17, 2007

The finding is in the current issue of Annals of Neurology, a leading international neurology journal, in work led by Professor Nigel Laing and Dr Kristen Nowak of the Laboratory for Molecular Genetics at the Western Austra ...

Recommended for you

Real-time volume imaging of hearts

1 hour ago

A new ultrasound system from Siemens enables doctors to carry out heart examinations through the esophagus for the first time. The system supplies 3D images of the heart as well as additional real-time information ...

Post-PCI bleeding rates vary widely across hospitals

19 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Patient case-mix and procedural factors may contribute to wide variation in the hospital rates of bleeding after percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), according to research published online ...

Most seniors eligible for statin Rx under new guidelines

Nov 25, 2014

(HealthDay)—Most older Americans qualify for treatment with statins under new guidelines for the treatment of blood cholesterol released late last year by the American College of Cardiology and the American ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.