Manchester research aims to slow down heart failure

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We have awarded funding for a new research project at the University of Manchester, which could find a way to slow down the progression of heart failure.

Problems with the heart’s natural recycling system can result in the onset and development of heart failure. Autophagy, which means ‘self-eating’, is a way for the heart to dismantle cell contents and proteins it no longer needs, and recycle useful parts such as glucose and amino acids. However, if the heart becomes stressed for too long, for example as a result of high blood pressure, autophagy may fail to work normally. As a result, either toxins accumulate or healthy cell contents are over-digested in heart cells. These cells gradually stop working and die, contributing to heart failure.

Researchers at the University of Manchester have identified a novel protein which is involved in the regulation of autophagy in the heart, and believe it plays a key role in causing heart failure. They will now investigate this protein in mice to identify whether it could be a target for slowing down the progression of the condition.

This two-year project could result in new treatment targets that will potentially offer longer and better-quality life to people living with heart failure.

Dr Wei Liu, who is leading the study, said: “The longer autophagy is balanced, the longer heart cells can survive and heart failure can be slowed down.

“In preliminary data we found that, in end stage heart failure, the level of the identified protein is dramatically increased, which indicates that this protein may contribute to the progression of heart failure. If we find that keeping this protein at a lower level limits the progression of heart failure, it could provide an exciting new target for therapies.”

Subreena Simrick, our Senior Research Advisor, said: “Heart failure is a devastating condition, affecting a growing number of people in the UK.

“This project at the University of Manchester, while at an early stage, could offer a new target for slowing down heart failure. Further research will need to be carried out in humans to see if this research will result in longer, healthier lives for those living with the condition.”