Research ArticleCardiology

Characterization of the molecular mechanisms underlying increased ischemic damage in the aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 genetic polymorphism using a human induced pluripotent stem cell model system

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Science Translational Medicine  24 Sep 2014:
Vol. 6, Issue 255, pp. 255ra130
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3009027

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Personalized Heart Healing

In poetry, we welcome assaults to the heart that leave one breathless. But depriving actual heart tissue of oxygen—through decreased blood flow—can cause irreparable damage. The human genome houses ALDH2, a gene that encodes the heart-protective metabolic enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase 2. But ~8% of the human population carries an inactivating gene polymorphism (ALDH2*2) that has been linked to enhanced severity of damage from cardiac ischemia—a shortage in the heart’s oxygen supply—and an increased risk of coronary artery disease (CAD). Now, Ebert et al. investigate the mechanisms underlying these ALDH2*2-associated maladies using a human cellular model of the ALDH2*2 genotype made with induced pluripotent stem cell–derived cardiomyocytes generated from patient fibroblasts. The authors found that ALDH2 regulated cell survival by modulating oxidative stress, a circuit that was dysfunctional in ALDH2*2 cells. This aberration induced cell cycle arrest and enhanced apoptosis in cardiomyocytes after ischemic insult, illuminating a new function for ALDH2 in cell survival decisions. Such mechanistic insights may spur the development of new diagnostic methods for and improved risk management of CAD as well as genotype-specific cardiac therapies. Now, if we can only find a cure for the poetic broken heart….

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