Scientists from King’s College London are regenerating damaged hearts using the same technology as Covid-19 vaccines in a bid to develop a cure for heart attacks – and human trials are due to start within two years.
The research has identified genetic codes which produce proteins that stimulate the creation of healthy heart cells, and these can be delivered to the heart muscle after a heart attack using the same technology as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
The scientists have also identified proteins which could be injected into heart attack patients by paramedics to stop heart cells dying, the Times reports.
Approximately 100,000 people are admitted to hospitals in the UK after suffering a heart attack every year.
As the heart has no ability to repair itself, heart attack victims are often left with a scar that can lead to heart failure – but the new therapy could potentially transform cardiovascular medicine and prevent heart failure in victims.
Professor Mauro Giacca, who is leading the research, said: “We are all born with a set number of muscle cells in our heart, and they are exactly the same ones we will die with.
“The heart has no capacity to repair itself after a heart attack. Regenerating a damaged human heart has been a dream until a few years ago, but can now become a reality.
“We are using exactly the same technology as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to inject micro RNAs to the heart, reaching surviving heart cells and pushing their proliferation.
“The new cells would replace the dead ones and instead of forming a scar, the patient has new muscle tissue.
“We have identified three proteins which stop heart cells from dying by encouraging them to repair themselves.
“The idea is to produce these proteins so they can be injected immediately after a heart attack in the back of an ambulance or when the patient reaches the hospital.
“If clinical trials go well it would be blockbuster medicine. The treatment revolution that has occured in cancer in recent years, where there is immunotherapy and targeted biological therapies, has not occurred for the heart. Treatment for heart attacks and heart failure remains very similar to 50 years ago.”
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “The money raised by the 2022 TCS London Marathon will enable Professor Giacca and his team to push the boundaries of science by finding ways to teach the heart to repair itself. Unlocking these secrets could help heal hearts.”
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