Researchers are testing a method to deliver genetic material into the body to repair damaged heart muscle

A method of delivering genetic material to the body is being tested as a way to repair damaged heart muscle after a heart attack. The groundbreaking research is being presented today at Frontiers in CardioVascular Biomedicine 2022, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Messenger RNA (mRNA) COVID-19 vaccines use lipid nanoparticles (tiny droplets of fat) to deliver mRNA to cells in the body. This mRNA instructs cells to make a dummy spike protein on their surface to mimic the virus protein responsible for COVID-19. The body then mounts an immune response by creating antibodies that can be used if the individual is infected with the virus.

A similar method for mRNA delivery was used in the present study. However, instead of aiming for an immune response, the researchers’ ultimate goal is to command heart cells to repair themselves after a heart attack.

This preliminary study was conducted to determine if mRNA could be successfully delivered to heart muscle in lipid nanoparticles. The researchers injected different formulations into the left ventricular wall of mouse hearts during open-chest surgery under general anesthesia. Twenty-four hours after administration, the mice were sacrificed and the location of mRNA translation was examined.

Researchers found that mRNA successfully reached heart cells 24 hours after injection. However, despite injection into the heart, the highest levels of mRNA translation were found in liver and spleen cells.

High expression was expected in the liver, as it metabolizes lipid nanoparticles. Nevertheless, it was encouraging to see that there was translation of mRNA in heart tissue, which means that lipid nanoparticles could function as delivery systems for mRNA therapy.”

Dr. Clara Labonia, Author of the study, University Medical Center Utrecht, Netherlands

She concluded: “The next step in this research is to test more formulations and choose the one that most effectively targets heart tissue. We will then assess whether administration of mRNA to mice with ischemic hearts (resembling a heart attack) has a therapeutic effect.”


European Society of Cardiology

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