Researchers discover protein switch that can trigger heart failure

April 06, 2016

In the lab, researchers "knocked-out" or genetically removed the PINK1 gene in mice and studied their heart cells under the microscope. They found that although the hearts initially develop normally, they begin to fail after two months, suggesting that PINK1 isn't required for organ development; rather it is crucial for protecting against heart failure.

Until now, research into the PINK1 gene has focused on its links to early-onset Parkinson's disease and certain cancers including esophageal and endometrial. This is the first study to establish its connection to heart disease.

While more research is required to develop potential clinical treatments, this discovery represents a new way of thinking about the involvement of certain proteins in the progression of heart failure.

"We need to learn more about PINK1 and the other proteins it interacts with at the sub-cellular level," says Dr. Billia. "But if we've identified the inciting event that causes the chain of events leading to failure, research and drug development strategies should be focused in this new area of science."

Source: The Peter Munk Cardiac Centre