New cause of heart failure discovered

14 November 2017        

Category: Research

A new treatment for heart failure is a step closer after a study has found that a part of our immune system once thought to prevent organ damage is actually a leading cause of scarring and heart failure. 

Computational model of the human heart

Researchers at Imperial College London found that a protein called interleukin 11 (IL11) plays a key role in the scarring process, which in turn causes heart, kidney and liver failure.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure commonly results after a heart attack as scars form in the damaged heart muscle. These scars stop the heart muscle from contracting properly and reduce the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body.

Paving the way for new treatments

The research, published in the Nature, also found that by inhibiting IL11 they could prevent heart and kidney fibrosis in mice, meaning it could pave the way for new treatments.

Preventing organ failure

Scarring is a natural response to tissue injury, but in excess it can stop organs from working effectively, causing a build-up of excess connective tissue in an organ, known as fibrosis.  When fibrosis occurs in the heart, liver, kidneys or lungs these organs can start to fail.

By developing drugs capable of blocking IL11 the team hope to be able to reduce the damage caused by a heart attack and prevent the onset of devastating heart failure.

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