Enhanced protein 'could help reduce heart attack damage'

Scientific Developments/Breakthroughs

A new study has created a supercharged protein that could be used to significantly reduce the damage caused by heart attacks.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill have conducted studies involving the focal adhesion kinase (FAK) protein, which is typically activated during heart attacks as a means of minimising damage to oxygen-deprived cells.

The scientists adjusted the formula to create a new protein called SuperFAK, which offers a much more robust response than FAK, while still remaining under the control of the immune system.

Trials were run using mice as test subjects, showing that SuperFAK was able to reduce damage from heart attacks by around 50 percent.

Dr Joan Taylor, associate professor in UNC's department of pathology and laboratory medicine, said: "I think folks could use this idea to exploit mutations in other molecules - by thinking about how to modify the protein so that it can be under natural controls."

Various organisations are currently conducting research into how to limit damage following heart attacks, with the British Heart Foundation leading a project that focuses on the ability of zebrafish to regrow damaged heart tissue.

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