Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A supercharged protein reduces damage from heart attack

Date:
March 1, 2012
Source:
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Summary:
Researchers have tapped into the body's own repair system to protect heart cells after an attack. In the study mice were bred to make a supercharged version of the protein focal adhesion kinase, or FAK.

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: Image courtesy of University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reduced damage from a heart attack by 50 percent by enhancing a protective protein found in mice and humans. 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.

Related Articles


"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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Zhaokang Cheng, Laura A. DiMichele, Zeenat S. Hakim, Mauricio Rojas, Christopher P. Mack, and Joan M. Taylor. Targeted Focal Adhesion Kinase Activation in Cardiomyocytes Protects the Heart From Ischemia/Reperfusion Injury. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol, March 1 2012 DOI: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.112.245134

Cite This Page:

University of North Carolina School of Medicine. "A supercharged protein reduces damage from heart attack." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301180944.htm>.
University of North Carolina School of Medicine. (2012, March 1). A supercharged protein reduces damage from heart attack. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301180944.htm
University of North Carolina School of Medicine. "A supercharged protein reduces damage from heart attack." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301180944.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Fauci Says Ebola Risk in US "essentially Zero"

Fauci Says Ebola Risk in US "essentially Zero"

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said the risk of Ebola becoming an epidemic in the U.S. is essentially zero Thursday at the Washington Ideas Forum. He also said an Ebola vaccine will be tested in West Africa in the next few months. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nurse Defies Ebola Quarantine With Bike Ride

Nurse Defies Ebola Quarantine With Bike Ride

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) A nurse who vowed to defy Maine's voluntary quarantine for health care workers who treated Ebola patients followed through on her promise Thursday, leaving her home for an hour-long bike ride. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pot-Infused Edibles Raise Concerns in Colorado

Pot-Infused Edibles Raise Concerns in Colorado

AFP (Oct. 30, 2014) Colorado may have legalized marijuana for recreational use, but the debate around the decision still continues, with a recent - failed - attempt to ban cannabis-infused edibles. Duration: 01:53 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
British Navy Ship Arrives in Sierra Leone With Ebola Aid

British Navy Ship Arrives in Sierra Leone With Ebola Aid

AFP (Oct. 30, 2014) The British ship RFA ARGUS arrived in Sierra Leone to deliver supplies and equipment to help the fight against Ebola. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins