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About SickKids

September 15, 2014

SickKids researchers explore new treatment for heart condition

By Ashley Durk

Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have discovered that there may be a better way to treat dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle stops working properly, becoming larger and less effective as a pumping mechanism.

The research titled, Integrin-linked kinase mediates force transduction in cardiomyocytes by modulating SERCA2a/PLN function was published in Nature Communications on Sept. 11.

SickKids lead authors, Dr. John Coles, Cardiovascular Surgeon and Senior Associate Scientist, and Dr. Jason Maynes, Staff Anesthesiologist and Scientist-Track Investigator, discovered that a protein called integrin-linked kinase (ILK) can normalize contraction of the heart in response to stress by activating calcium regulatory proteins.  

Currently, severe forms of heart failure in children caused by cardiomyopathies are untreatable, except by heart transplantation. Some children who have mild or even moderate forms of dilated cardiomyopathy manage well. When the condition becomes severe and requires hospitalization, however, the child might need ICU care. If the disease progresses further, it can lead to severe heart failure requiring heart transplantation, explained Coles.

“The pathway within the heart can be pursued to try and develop new treatments – other than transplantation – with medicines or other therapeutics,” said Coles. “By itself, the discovery does not lead to a cure, but it identifies targets that can be addressed not just by SickKids researchers, but also by other groups working urgently to develop better treatments.”

The research is supported by the Labatt Family Heart Centre, the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.