Miracle molecule called 'Singheart' helps heart cells self-repair so the effects of cardiovascular disease - the leading cause of death worldwide - could be 'banished forever'

New research has discovered a potential means to trigger damaged heart cells to self-heal. The discovery could lead to groundbreaking forms of treatment for heart diseases.

 For the first time, researchers have identified a long non-coding ribonucleic acid (ncRNA) that regulates genes controlling the ability of heart cells to undergo repair or regeneration. 

This novel RNA, which researchers have named "Singheart," may be targeted for treating heart failure in the future. The discovery was made jointly by A*STAR's Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and the National University Health System (NUHS), and is now published in Nature Communications.

Unlike most other cells in the human body, heart cells do not have the ability to self-repair or regenerate effectively, making heart attack and heart failure severe and debilitating.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide, with an estimated 17.7 million people dying from CVD in 2015. CVD also accounted for close to 30% of all deaths in Singapore in 2015.

Scientists used single cell technology to explore gene expression patterns in healthy and diseased hearts.

They looked at a long non-coding ribonucleic acid (ncRNA). 

RNA acts as a vehicle for DNA to synthesise proteins in all living cells.

This is what regulates genes and controls the ability of heart cells to undergo repair or regeneration. 

'There has always been a suspicion that the heart holds the key to its own healing, regenerative and repair capability', said lead author Roger Foo from the Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI) and National University Heart Centre, Singapore (NUHCS).

'But that ability seems to become blocked as soon as the heart is past its developmental stage. 

'Our findings point to this potential block that when lifted, may allow the heart to heal itself', he said.

"In contrast to a skin wound where the scab falls off and new skin grows over, the heart lacks such a capability to self-heal, and suffers a permanent scar instead. If the heart can be motivated to heal like the skin, consequences of a heart attack would be banished forever," added A/Prof Foo.
The study was driven by first author and former Senior Research Fellow at the GIS, Dr Kelvin See, who is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher and Mack Technology Fellow at University of Pennsylvania.
"This new research is a significant step towards unlocking the heart's full regenerative potential, and may eventually translate to more effective treatment for heart diseases.
Heart disease is the top disease burden in Singapore and strong funding remains urgently needed to enable similar groundbreaking discoveries," said Prof Mark Richards, Director of CVRI.
Executive Director of GIS, Prof Ng Huck Hui added, "This cross-institutional research effort serves as a strong foundation for future heart studies. 
More importantly, uncovering barriers that stand in the way of heart cells' self-healing process brings us another step closer to finding a cure for one of the world's biggest killers."

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