Gene therapy has restored virtually normal contractile function in mice with heart failure, bringing fresh hope of "regenerating a weak [human] heart". An American team is responsible for this "spectacular albeit preliminary" result, published in the Nature journal on 4 October.
The scientists led by James Martin from the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston (Texas), believe that heart failure triggers "a cascade reaction called the Hippo signalling pathway", which prevents cardiac cells from proliferating. They have developed a genetically modified virus with an affinity for cardiac tissue, which blocks this Hippo pathway in cardiac cells. Injected "in the zone bordering the infarction following confirmation of heart failure, this gene therapy (…) regenerated the heart of treated mice".
This is an "unprecedented result up to this point", which has stimulated scientists and cardiologists alike. Fabrice Prunier, cardiologist at CHU Angers (University Hospital Centre), points out that, conversely, cell therapy clinical trials undertaken fifteen years ago yielded "minimum gains in terms of contractile function. It certainly wasn't the miracle we expected".
As regards this novel gene therapy, new trials still have to be conducted in animals before human clinical trials can be considered.
Le Monde, Marc Gozlan (16/10/2017)