U of G Research May Improve Life After Heart Attack

June 06, 2012 - News Release

A way to help more patients survive and enjoy healthier lives after a heart attack may be a step closer with a new study by researchers in the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC).

Prof. Glen Pyle, Biomedical Sciences, and former grad student Feng Hua Yang found that lower levels of a heart muscle protein in transgenic mice can help protect against damage sustained during and after a heart attack.

This is the first study showing benefits of lower CapZ protein in the heart. The protein is involved in cell signalling in the heart.

“We’ve identified a unique target,” said Pyle. Only one other research group – his former post-doc lab in Chicago – is looking at this particular protein. “We know that targeting the protein is a benefit.”

The paper appeared recently in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology.

Their work might help in developing better therapies for treating heart attack patients, said Pyle. Lowering CapZ would not necessarily prevent heart attacks but may help protect against subsequent damage to the muscle.

“A lot of damage comes from when you restart the heart,” he said. That damage may be acute or it may be chronic for patients with heart failure resulting from a heart attack. Heart failure may also be caused by such conditions as diabetes or high blood pressure.

Pyle said doctors might eventually inject patients with peptides, or short stretches of protein, that bind and disable certain heart proteins. Peptide therapy might better target CapZ proteins than existing drugs with more wide-ranging effects.

The Guelph researchers used transgenic mice to study CapZ.

In the heart, the protein plays a structural role, but it is also involved in responding to physical stretching and straining during a heart attack.

Pyle plans to continue studies of how the protein works and how to manipulate it.

Besides benefiting human patients, he hopes his work will help animals such as Doberman pinschers, which are susceptible to heart disease. “We will look for this protein in their heart and see the effects. The same peptide and gene therapies could apply in dogs.”

Pyle belongs to a cross-campus research group looking at heart disease from molecules to whole animals.

This study was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, a Premier’s Research Excellence Award, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Shiona Mackenzie, Ext. 56982, or shiona@uoguelph.ca.

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