Yeah sure, we have all heard it a thousand times (I hear it a thousand times in a single day. Thanks, mum) – diet and exercise is important for a healthy body. But come on, nobody wants to spend hours pointlessly sweating when there’s a new episode of Game of Thrones to watch.
Now, as though god just absentmindedly tuned into my prayers, scientists at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute have found a protein that could trick the heart into thinking you’re keeping up on your cardio.
In a nutshell, the protein induces the effects of a healthy lifestyle thereby coaxing the heart into growing in a healthy way and pumping more blood.
The heart is a muscle, and like any muscle it has to be exercised regularly in order to stay in shape. As it’s exercised more, the heart grows larger and able to pump blood more effectively.
This protein uncovered by the researchers called the cardiotrophin 1 (CT1), might be useful for more than just faking a healthy lifestyle. They show that this good kind of heart growth is very different from the harmful enlargement of the heart that occurs during heart failure. They also show that CT1 can repair heart damage and improve blood flow in animal models of heart failure.
“When part of the heart dies, the remaining muscles try to adapt by getting bigger, but this happens in a dysfunctional way and it doesn’t actually help the heart pump more blood,” said Dr Lynn Megeney, senior author of the study and a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital, in a statement. “We found that CT1 causes heart muscles to grow in a more healthy way and it also stimulates blood vessel growth in the heart. This actually increases the heart’s ability to pump blood, just like what you would see with exercise and pregnancy.”
Heart failure is one of the leading causes of death and disability in first world countries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 5.7 million adults in the United States have heart failure. The condition happens when the heart cannot pump enough amount of blood through the body, often as a result of a heart attack that damaged the heart muscle tissue.
Heart failure patients are often limited in their ability to exercise, but the new discovery may lead to treatments that can give heart failure patients an option to enjoy the healthy benefits of going to the gym.
In mouse and rat tests, the protein stimulated healthy growth of heart tissue after heart attacks, in contrast to the unhealthy growth that normally occurs. The hearts treated with CT1 managed to regain most of their strength, which could mean faster, more thorough recoveries from heart failure.
The researchers are currently seeking patents for treating heart conditions with CT1, and are hoping to soon test the protein in human patients. If further tests are successful, CT1 therapy could be available within a decade.