Scientists at UCLA have identified a molecule that appears to play a key role in the development of heart failure. The scientists found that blocking the molecule, known as chaer, in animal studies prevented the animals from developing heart failure. Although the research is still at an early stage, future drugs that target chaer or related signaling pathways may hold promise for treating or preventing heart failure, a condition that afflicts about 5.7 million people and is a contributing cause to roughly one in nine deaths in the United States. The results of the study were published online on September 12, 2016 in Nature Medicine. The article is titled “The long noncoding RNA Chaer defines an epigenetic checkpoint in cardiac hypertrophy.” Chaer is not a protein; it belongs to a category of RNA molecules called long non-coding RNA, or lncRNA. Non-coding RNAs have been considered part of the “dark matter” of biology because they are abundant and diverse in cells, and the DNA that encodes them accounts for most of plant and animal genomes, yet their roles have been largely unexplored. “The observation that a single lncRNA molecule can activate a broad set of heart-failure-related genes was a big surprise,” said Dr. Yibin Wang, the study’s senior author and a professor in the departments of anesthesiology, physiology and medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “The findings provide us a better understanding of the molecular processes of heart failure, which we hope eventually to target with effective therapies.” With heart failure, the muscle tissue progressively thickens and stiffens, impairing the heart’s ability to pump blood.
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