Messenger RNA has already proven its credentials in the race to create a COVID-19 vaccine, and researchers are investigating whether this versatile technology could also boost recovery from a heart attack.
mRNA cemented itself in public vernacular in 2020 when Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna used the tech to create their COVID-19 shots. These vaccines use tiny fat droplets—known as lipid nanoparticles (LNPs)—to deliver mRNA to the body’s cells that imitates the protein on the coronavirus. The body’s immune response then creates antibodies that are ready to fight the infection.
Researchers are now hoping modified mRNA could be used to instruct heart cells to repair themselves after a heart attack. A preliminary mouse model shed light on the potential, with findings presented April 30 at Frontiers in CardioVascular Biomedicine 2022, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology.
Researchers injected different LNP formulations into the left ventricular wall of the hearts of mice and examined the location of mRNA translation 24 hours later. They found that mRNA did successfully reach the heart cells, although the researchers noted that the highest levels of mRNA translation were in the cells of the liver and spleen.
“High expression was expected in the liver, since it metabolizes the lipid nanoparticles,” study author Clara Labonia, M.D., Ph.D., of the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, said in an April 30 release. “Nonetheless, it was encouraging to see that there was mRNA translation in the heart tissue, which means that lipid nanoparticles could work as delivery systems for mRNA therapy.”
The next step will be to test more formulations and choose the one that most efficiently targets heart tissue, Labonia said. “We will then assess whether delivery of mRNA to mice with ischemic hearts has any therapeutic effect.”