New scar tissue therapy boosts outcome of heart attack recovery

2 Jan 2020

Image: © Gorodenkoff/

A protein discovery could significantly improve outcomes for heart attack patients who don’t respond well to existing treatments.

Scientists in Australia have found that placing a particular protein therapy in the heart following a cardiac event can bolster the treatment of those in recovery, even among patients who typically don’t respond well.

In a paper published to Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the University of Sydney and The Westmead Institute for Medical Research said this protein therapy is called recombinant human platelet-derived growth factor-AB (rhPDGF-AB).

When infused into patients recovering from a heart attack, their tests showed it improved the quality of scar tissue, formed new blood vessels in the heart and reduced rates of dangerous arrhythmia that can lead to sudden death.

After a heart attack, thick scar tissue forms that can limit the organ’s ability to function properly and can increase the risk of heart failure. Existing treatments try to restore the blood and oxygen supply as quickly as possible to prevent scarring. However, while this can produce good results, up to a quarter of patients who have their first heart attack will develop heart failure within a year.

Corresponding author of the research, associate professor James Chong of the University of Sydney, said: “While we have treatment protocols in place, it’s clear that there is an urgent, unmet need for additional treatments to improve patient outcomes particularly after large heart attacks.”

He said that in pre-clinical testing with large animal models, the treatment did not affect overall scar size. However, rhPDGF-AB led to increased scar collagen fibre alignment and strength.

“Some further animal studies are required to clarify safety and dosing. Then we can start looking towards clinical trials in humans very soon. RhPDGF-AB is clearly a promising therapeutic option, and could potentially be used alongside existing treatments to improve heart attack patient outcomes and survival rates.”

Chong added that he and his fellow researchers will look to see could the treatment be used in other organs affected by scar tissue, such as kidneys.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic