Suppressing gene may prolong life for people heart failure

22nd September 2015

A gene that plays an important role in heart development has been found to also play a role in dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

If the gene COUP-TFI overexpresses (has a bigger effect than it should) it can cause heart function problems, say researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, America.

They have found that by suppressing the gene in mice with heart failure it can prolong their lives.

The findings have been published in Nature Communications.

Dr. Sophia Tsai, professor of molecular and cellular biology at Baylor and co-corresponding author on the study, said that mice who had overexpression of the gene had a rapid decline in health. The mice had a similar level of gene overexpression as was seen in patients with DCM so they decided to look into why this happened. 

Focusing on this gene, Dr Tsai and her colleagues also found it plays a role in cells that are responsible for energy production. When levels of the COUP-TFII were overexpressed it created an overload of reactive oxygen which damaged the cell causing heart failure.

When the system functions properly, COUP-TFII expression is very low. But when its expression is induced in heart disease patients, function is disrupted and the heart is damaged, said researchers.

They believe this finding may eventually lead to a treatment inhibiting COUP-TFII for patients with DCM.

Researchers said: “It was thought that the gene expression was a consequence of dilated cardiomyopathy, but we have found that it is part of the cause. This gives us a target for further research needed before clinical application.”