Researchers have reported the discovery of a protein that mimics the effects of exercise, as well as tricks the heart to pump more blood and grow in a healthy way. The findings can pave way for the development of new treatment options for heart failure patients.
Heart failure is one of the leading causes of death and disability in first world countries. Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 5.7 million adults in the United States have heart failure.
The condition happens when the heart cannot pump enough amount of blood through the body, often as a result of a heart attack that damaged the heart muscle tissue.
Heart failure patients are often limited in their ability to exercise, but the new discovery may lead to treatments that can give heart failure patients an option to enjoy the healthy benefits of going to the gym.
In a study published in the journal Cell Research, researchers found that the protein cardiotrophin 1, or CT1, causes the heart to pump more blood even without active physical movement. This makes the protein beneficial for people suffering from heart problems who find it difficult to exercise.
Promising Treatment For Heart Failure Patients
In animal studies, the researchers noticed that heart muscles that were treated with the protein became longer and had healthier fibers.
The researchers also found that the protein helped repair damage, caused heart muscles to grow in a healthier way, and improved blood flow, which can increase the ability of the heart to pump blood just like what happens when a person exercises. Treatment with CT-1 was also found to improve heart functions in heart failures that were caused by heart attack and high blood pressure.
"[Two] weeks administration of hCT1 in vivo produced cardiac remodeling that was similar to that induced by exercise and, in a model of progressive RHF due to severe pulmonary arterial hypertension, improved cardiac function and reversed right ventricle (RV) dilatation," the researchers wrote in their study.
Study researcher Duncan Stewart, from the University of Ottawa, said that the experimental therapy involving the protein offers promise in treating left and right heart failures.
"Currently, the only treatment for right heart failure is a transplant. And although we have drugs that can reduce the symptoms of left heart failure, we can't fix the problem, and left heart failure often leads to right heart failure over time," Stewart said.