Toronto: Researchers have discovered a protein switch which can trigger conditions culminating in heart failure, potentially opening the way for improved treatment.
A study shows that the absence of protein PINK1 causes heart cells to produce less energy, reports the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This lack of energy causes some heart cells to die, forcing the remaining cells to work harder to keep the heart going. Consequently, the heart muscle cells thicken, a condition known as hypertrophy.
"Our research suggests that PINK1 is an important switch that sets off a cascade of events affecting heart cell metabolism," says Phyllis Billia, principal author, clinician-scientist and heart failure specialist at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, Canada.
Heart failure is the most common cause of hospitalization in the US and over 50,000 people are treated for advanced heart failure annually, according to the Cardiac Centre statement.
Transplantation is the only long-term treatment for end-stage heart failure patients, but the long waiting period for a matching donor organ makes it necessary to find other alternatives.
"Heart failure remains a silent epidemic in North America...current therapies, while effective, only target the symptoms of heart failure," study co-author Vivek Rao said.
"The discovery of PINK1`s role in the development of heart failure may lead to novel treatment to prevent heart failure in those at risk. This discovery represents a novel and as yet, untapped mechanism to fight the battle against heart failure," Rao added.