Milan Researchers Discover Gene Linked to Heart Attack Resilience
Milan, 14 September 2023 – In honor of World Heart Day, MultiMedica’s latest research sheds light on why some individuals have a higher capacity for heart recovery following a heart attack. The study highlights the role of the BPIFB4 gene, specifically its Longevity Associated Variant (LAV), also known as the “longevity gene,” which is prevalent among centenarians.
The scientific findings, recently published in the journal Cell Death and Disease, were led by Professor Annibale Puca of the MultiMedica Group in Milan and Professor Paolo Madeddu of the University of Bristol. According to the study, the BPIFB4 protein directly influences cardiomyocytes, the heart muscle cells responsible for its contractile activity. By enhancing their performance and resilience, the protein minimizes the consequences of a heart attack and accelerates the restoration of heart functionality.
Financed by the Ministry of Health and the British Heart Foundation, the research consisted of three phases: clinical-observational, in vivo, and in vitro. The clinical-observational phase analyzed plasma samples from 492 patients aged 59-76 who had experienced a heart attack. The results revealed an inverse correlation between circulating levels of the BPIFB4 protein and the severity of coronary disease. Patients with three-vessel disease, the most severe form characterized by narrowing of all three coronary arteries, had the lowest protein levels. The in vivo phase’s findings corroborated these results. Mice that had been genetically modified to possess the longevity gene demonstrated increased resistance to heart attacks, showcasing the gene’s ability to strengthen the heart.
To further understand how the protein bolsters the heart muscle, the researchers focused on two types of human cardiac cells in the in vitro phase: cardiomyocytes and fibroblasts. The LAV-BPIFB4 protein displayed an incredible ability to improve cardiomyocyte performance by increasing its contraction force and beating frequency. Additionally, the protein limited fibroblasts’ production of fibrosis, which stiffens cardiac tissue. These findings suggest the protein’s promising therapeutic potential in maintaining heart health and countering harmful cardiac remodeling associated with ischemic diseases.
Previous studies have highlighted the functionality of the LAV-BPIFB4 protein in various pathological contexts, including the prevention of atherosclerosis, vascular aging, diabetic complications, and rejuvenation of the immune and cardiac systems. Professor Hannibal Puca, the laboratory head at Irccs MultiMedica, stressed the importance of this new discovery, stating that the longevity gene equips individuals with adaptability and resistance against diseases. He highlighted the common denominator of diseases and the aging process: the loss of homeostasis, which ensures cellular balance and survival. Puca concluded that the success of LAV-BPIFB4 lies in its ability to restore this balance.
This groundbreaking research has opened up new avenues for potential treatments and preventative measures against heart attacks and other cardiac conditions. Scientists and medical professionals alike hope to harness the power of the BPIFB4 gene to improve heart health and prolong lives. As the world celebrates World Heart Day, this discovery brings hope for millions of individuals at risk of heart disease.