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article imageScientists reverse heart disease in mice

By Chris V. Thangham     Dec 1, 2008 in Health
U.S. and German scientists have not only stopped the advance of heart disease in mice, but have also reversed some of its effects. They claim human tests are only few years away.
Heart disease is one of the major problems in the U.S., and in most cases it's fatal. About 24 million people in the U.S. are afflicted with heart disease according to the National Center of Health Statistics.
Scientists trying to find a cure for it have found a novel therapy that can either halt the progress of the heart disease or reverse it completely. They have also successfully demonstrated the new technique on mice.
The scientists from U.S. and Germany have found microRNA, a genetic material, plays a key role in the development of heart disease. The therapy will involve targeting and blocking this microRNA in heart cells.
MicroRNA-21 attacks the cardiac fibroblast, a heart cell that provides structure to the organ. The cardiac fibroblast stops working during heart disease. Micro-RNA-21 causes tissue damage in the heart and scientists previously thought this process was irreversible in nature. However, for the current study, they found they can reverse the process with a novel therapy technique.
In the mice study, scientists used a chemical that blocked microRNA-21. Their tests showed microRNA was interrupted from attacking the heart cells, and learned the cardiac function of the animals also improved.
The study published in the current journal Nature says this technique can also be applied in treating heart disease in humans. They believe human tests are only a few years away.
Professor Eric Olson from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who is also working on a similar study on microRNAs and heart disease, found the results interesting.
He said focusing on micro-RNAs provides plenty of potential and possibilities for treating heart disease.
Olson told the BBC:
"There are already studies in large animals using micro-RNA inhibitors in heart disease - I can envisage that in a few years we will see this in human trials."
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