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Scientists have discovered that by targeting a protein involved in scar formation they can potentially reduce the damage inflicted by heart attacks.
Nonfatal heart attacks can often cause permanent damage to the heart because of a build up of scar tissue.
Researchers in the US working with mice were able to identify a protein, sFRP2, that plays a key role in the formation of collagen, the main component of scar tissue.
They found that animals that had been genetically engineered not to produce sFRP2 recovered far more easily from artificially induced heart attacks.
Researcher Professor Daniel Greenspan, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US, said: “With many injuries and diseases, large amounts of collagen are formed and deposited in tissues, leading to scarring and a condition called fibrosis.
“Fibrosis can seriously affect the functioning of heart, lung, liver and other tissues.”
When fibrosis was reduced in the mice, their heart function significantly improved, Professor Greenspan said.
He added that agents that block sFRP2 could also help in the treatment of other fibrosis conditions, including cirrhosis of the liver and interstitial lung disease.
The research has been reported in the journal Nature Cell Biology.
Copyright Press Association 2008