Heart disease is a leading cause of death in Australia, killing one person every 12 minutes and affecting one-in-six or 4.2million Australians, not to mention the impact it has on global populations. So this week's discovery by the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, University of Ottawa Heart Institute and Carleton University, some of the leading research institutes in Canada, and published in Cell Research is a big deal.

Scientists have found a protein called Cardiotrophin 1 or CT1 that can trick the heart into growing in a healthy way and pumping more blood. The findings also show that the protein can repair heart damage and improve blood flow in heart failure (in animal models). "When part of the heart dies, the remaining muscles try to adapt by getting bigger, but this happens in a dysfunctional way and it doesn't actually help the heart pump more blood,"  Dr. Lynn Megeney, senior author of the study and a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa said of the findings. "We found that CT1 causes heart muscles to grow in a more healthy way and it also stimulates blood vessel growth in the heart. This actually increases the heart's ability to pump blood, just like what you would see with exercise and pregnancy."

While the research found that the new protein increases the heart's ability to pump blood, when treatment ceases, the heart goes back to its original condition - yep, just like when you give up exercise. "This experimental therapy is very exciting, particularly because it shows promise in treating both left and right heart failure," Dr. Duncan Stewart, a cardiologist, senior scientist and co-senior author and Executive Vice-President of Research at The Ottawa Hospital and a professor at the University of Ottawa said. "Currently, the only treatment for right heart failure is a transplant. And although we have drugs that can reduce the symptoms of left heart failure, we can't fix the problem, and left heart failure often leads to right heart failure over time."

The researchers noted that (theoretically) patients with heart problems would benefit in a similar from exercise, but the problem is, these patients often can't workout, therefore the CT-1 protein would replicate this. A patent to treat patients is currently in the works. 


Science has found a way fake a cardio workout (without actually working out)