Research ArticleHeart Failure

SUMO-1 Gene Transfer Improves Cardiac Function in a Large-Animal Model of Heart Failure

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Science Translational Medicine  13 Nov 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 211, pp. 211ra159
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006487

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Cardiac Gene Therapy to the Rescue

Heart failure (HF) is one of the top reasons for hospitalization among the elderly and remains a leading cause of death in the Western world. Gene therapy has been proposed as a way to coerce the heart into being healthy by targeting cardiac-specific pathways. Replacing the gene sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ adenosine triphosphatase (SERCA2a) in patients has made it to phase 2b/3 trials, with early signs pointing to an improvement in HF-related events. To boost the effects of SERCA2a, Tilemann et al. designed a large-animal study that also tests the delivery of small ubiquitin-related modifier 1 (SUMO-1)—an important regulator of SERCA2a. The authors compared the efficacy of SUMO-1 gene transfer to SERCA2a gene transfer alone and to the combined delivery of both genes in a pig model of HF. In addition to being safe, administering SUMO-1 directly to the heart of these animals showed improved cardiac contractility and prevented left ventricular dilatation (two major aspects of HF). According to the authors, the functional improvements in this model of heart failure are most likely the result of improved SR Ca2+ ATPase activity afforded by increased SUMO-1 protein levels. Delivery of both SUMO-1 and SERCA2a suggested additional beneficial effects, but more mechanistic studies will be needed to understand this potential synergy. With the precedent set by the SERCA2a clinical trials, moving SUMO-1 gene therapy from pigs to humans seems likely in the short-term.

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