The study, in which mice were bred to make a supercharged version of the protein focal adhesion kinase, or FAK, appeared March 1 in the online edition of the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.
Following heart attack, heart cells are stressed due to lack of oxygen. When SuperFAK (in green) is expressed in the heart, it is further activated and protects heart cells from oxidative stress (in red). Credit: Joan Taylor, Ph.D
"This study shows that we can enhance existing cell survival pathways to protect heart cells during a heart attack," said Joan Taylor, PhD, associate professor in UNC's department of pathology and laboratory medicine. Taylor added that the findings could lead to new treatment approaches for heart attacks and may have broad implications for scientists seeking to manipulate the body's natural defensive systems.
During a heart attack, oxygen-deprived heart cells emit signals that activate the usually inert protein FAK, like the cry of a damsel in distress awakening her sleeping knight. If the gallant FAK arrives in time, it can save the cell and reduce permanent damage to the heart.
Taylor and her colleagues were intrigued by FAK's protective abilities. "We thought if we could activate FAK to a greater extent, then we could better protect those heart cells," said Taylor. Based on their previous studies that defined the signals induced by FAK in heart cells, they reasoned that expression of FAK set to an "always-on" position would eventually suffer uncontrolled inflammation and heart failure. "Simply having more of a good thing isn't always better," said Taylor. "The dynamics of the protein's activities are important to appropriately transmitting those survival signals."
The researchers then adjusted their formula to create a new protein they called "SuperFAK." To enhance its protective abilities without the harmful side effects, SuperFAK was primed for activation—ready to rush to the scene at the slightest provocation from stressed heart cells—but remained under the control of the mice's natural feedback systems that would shut it off when the crisis passed.
Mice with SuperFAK showed a much stronger FAK response during a heart attack than mice with the natural protein, and three days later had about 50 percent less heart damage. Critically, SuperFAK deactivated at the appropriate time, so the eight-week follow-up revealed no detrimental effects.
The findings offer evidence that, rather than simply activating or de-activating key proteins, researchers can benefit from a more nuanced approach that taps into the body's natural feedback loops. "I think folks could use this idea to exploit mutations in other molecules—by thinking about how to modify the protein so that it can be under natural controls," said Taylor. "Negative feedback loops are important because they 'reset' the system."
The findings also may help researchers augment FAK in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Some chemotherapy drugs are known to break down FAK, leaving patients' hearts more vulnerable to damage.
Co-authors included Zhaokang Cheng, Laura A. DiMichele, Zeenat S. Hakim, Mauricio Rojas and Christopher P. Mack. The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association.
Les Lang | EurekAlert!
How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH
A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology