Researchers identify new molecule which could repair tissue after heart attack

20 August 2019

Scientists from Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC have discovered a new compound that could reduce damage after a heart attack.

Tiffany Hionas

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, led by Robert Gourdie, Director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC Center for Heart and Reparative Medicine Research, reveals a new molecule that could reduce or prevent damage to the heart tissue during and after a heart attack. 

Robert Gourdie points out that ‘cardiologists say that when a heart attack occurs, time is muscle,’ and the ‘problem is that the area of dying tissue is not quarantined. Damaged heart cells start to send out signals to otherwise healthy cells, and the injury becomes much bigger.’

During a heart attack, reduced levels of oxygen and blood reach the heart cells, causing hypoxic ischemic injury. The damaged heart cells send out signals to healthy cells, which can escalate the injury.   

It becomes crucial to keep the injury localised to the area of cells that are affected by the hypoxic ischemic injury, allowing the neighbouring heart muscle cells to be kept uninvolved.

A decade ago, Gourdie and his team discovered a compound, alphaCT1, which targets the cell membranes responsible for controlling the heart muscle cells and carries other beneficial effects including skin wound healing. This compound helps reduce inflammation and heals chronic wounds.

Recognizing the potential of this compound, which could prevent damage to the heart tissue before a heart attack, Gourdie and his team have recently discovered a molecule with few chemical variations from parent molecule – alphaCT1. This new variant – alphaCT11 is more effective in protecting hearts from ischemic injury.

AlphaCT11 acts more potently than the parent molecules; even 20 minutes after the loss of blood flow that causes ischemic injury, alpha CT11 administers a stronger heart protective effect that prevents the spread of damage that could be caused after a heart attack.

Future research will look into developing new methods for delivering alphaCT11 exosomes. Ongoing research with Virginia Commonwealth University's Antonio Abbate and Stefano Toldo will investigate how alphaCT11 performs in live mice, before administering the compound to humans for clinical trials.

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