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Enzyme found that keeps heart healthy

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

The enzyme calcineurin has been identified by researchers as a critical player in keeping the heart healthy as well as for normal heart development. In mouse studies, the enzyme was found to play a critical role in maintaining strength of heart contractions and normal heart rhythm.

Marjorie Maillet, Ph.D., the study's first author says "We found that when you eliminate calcineurin, a pool of genes that regulates calcium in the heart went awry. This leads to defects in the growth and proliferation of heart cells, heart disease, and arrhythmia, loss of contractility and heart failure and disease." The enzyme seems to play a much larger role for a healthy heart than previously understood.

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Scientists have been aware that calcineurin is important for a healthy heart, but now understand the enzyme is crucial for regulating gene expression that in turn influences how calcium is regulated in and out of heart cells. Calcium is important for keeping heart rhythm normal and also important for helping heart cells grow.

Mice lacking calcineurin through genetic engineering suffered heart rhythm disturbances, heart failure and death.

In humans, calcium channel blockers are used to control heart rhythm disturbance and for other forms of heart disease. The enzyme calcineurin is now found to be a critical part of gene expression that in turn regulates the way calcium is handled in heart cells. The enzyme is more crucial for a healthy heart than known.

The new findings that a healthy heart is dependent on the enzyme could lead to new ways to diagnose heart disease and improvements in heart disease treatment.

Journal of Biological Chemistry