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, though, researchers recently discovered that protein therapy can 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.
“Our findings would be relevant for anyone who cares for patients with large myocardial infarcts and especially ischemic heart failure,” James Chong, PhD, FRACP, MBBS, lead author, told Florence Health. “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 heart attack.
“To my knowledge there are no treatments currently available that directly impact myocardial infarct scar in the way that 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 does improve clinical outcomes, close to 25 percent of individuals who’ve had 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 in a statement. “RhPDGF-AB is clearly a promising therapeutic option and could potentially 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 clinical trials in humans, 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.
Platelet-derived growth factor-AB improves scar mechanics and vascularity after myocardial infarction, Science Translational Medicine.
New treatment for heart attack scar could address heart failure, The Westmead Institute for Medical Research.