Researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute believe they may be onto something that could help tens of thousands of Canadians suffering from right-side heart failure.
“When the layperson thinks of heart failure, we’re generally referring to failure of the muscles on the left side of the heart,” said Dr. Lynn Megeney, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. “But over the last decade, we’ve seen about 50 per cent of heart failure cases involving weakness on the right side.”
According to Megeney, the problem is that treatment options for patients with right-side heart failure are currently extremely limited.
“These patients really have no options in terms of effective pharmacologic intervention or therapy. In fact, the only thing you can really do for advance stages of right-heart failure is a transplant.”
According to research published in the journal Cell Research, a protein produced by the body during exercise, as well as during pregnancy, may be able to help patients with the right-side condition.
Researchers found when the protein – known as Cardiotrophin-1 – was given to diseased hearts in animal models, they grew to a healthy size.
“We noticed that this protein – by itself – could induce this type of heart growth that’s associated with exercise,” he said. “And if you take the protein away, the heart would revert back to its normal size.”
Megeney says the findings are so promising, he’s hopeful the research will be ready for clinical trials with human patients within three to four years.