A recent study conducted by scientists from the University of Bristol has uncovered a potential new method of treating heart failure by injecting the genes of “super-agers” into failing heart cells, regenerating them and making them function as if they were 10 years younger.
For years, researchers have suspected that people who live beyond 100 years old must have a unique genetic code that protects them from the ravages of old age. Previous research had already shown that carriers of a variant of the BP1FB4 gene enjoy long lifespans and fewer heart problems.
In the new experiments, the Bristol team inserted the gene variant into a harmless virus and then injected it into elderly mice. The results were astounding, as the heart’s biological clock was rewound by the human equivalent of 10 years. The gene also triggered cardiac regeneration, sparked the construction of new blood vessels, and restored lost function when introduced to damaged elderly human heart cells in the lab.
Paolo Madeddu, a professor of experimental cardiovascular medicine at the University of Bristol’s Bristol Heart Institute, said: “Our findings confirm the healthy mutant gene can reverse the decline of heart performance in older people. We are now interested in determining if giving the protein instead of the gene can also work. Gene therapy is widely used to treat diseases caused by bad genes. However, a treatment based on a protein is safer and more viable than gene therapy.”
This groundbreaking research brings new hope for improving heart treatment and preventing heart failure. The study has demonstrated for the first time that such genes found in centenarians could be transferred to unrelated people to protect their hearts. The heart’s ability to pump blood around the body deteriorates with age, but the rate at which harmful changes occur is not the same in all people. Lifestyle choices can speed up or delay the biological clock, but inheriting protective genes is also crucial.
Professor James Leiper, the associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, which funded the research, said: “We all want to know the secrets of aging and how we might slow down age-related disease. This research has extraordinarily revealed that a variant of a gene that is commonly found in long-lived people can halt and even reverse aging of the heart in mice. This is still early-stage research, but could one day provide a revolutionary way to treat people with heart failure and even stop the debilitating condition from developing in the first place.”
Overall, the study published in the journal Cardiovascular Research, provides a promising new avenue of research for treating heart failure and preventing heart disease. The possibility of using gene therapy to slow down the aging process and protect the heart is truly exciting and could lead to a significant improvement in the quality of life for millions of people worldwide.