New findings offer hope to patients suffering from congenital heart disease or heart failure

OTTAWA — A team of researchers led by Mona Nemer, Professor of Medicine and Vice-President, Research at the University of Ottawa, has discovered an important link between two proteins called GATA4 and cyclin D2, which sheds new light on heart muscle cell repair.

The breakthrough may even lead to the development of a new generation of heart repair methods and drugs.

This discovery, which is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that during normal cardiac cell development, GATA4 interacts with cyclin D2. However, mutations in GATA4 may disruptthis interaction, which could explain the structural heart defects observed in human congenital heart disease (CHD), the world’s leading birth defect. CHD affects about 1% of Canadian children, and today, 90% of Canadian children born with CHD survive to adulthood, resulting in a growing number of young adults who require life-long cardiac care.

“Developing ways to regenerate or expand cardiac muscle cells is critically important for cardiac repair. The novel findings of Dr. Nemer’s group are of high clinical relevance,” said Duncan Stewart, CEO and Scientific Director at the the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, where he is also Senior Scientist in the Regenerative Medicine Program, and cardiologist at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

“Understanding the basis of congenital heart disease allows for better monitoring and follow-up of individuals with a family history of the disease, which results in improved prevention of cardiovascular events in children and young adults,” said Thierry Lacaze, Head, Division of Neonatology at the Ottawa Hospital.

Professor Nemer’s scientific work is supported by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, but this research also featured international collaboration between researchers from the University of Ottawa and the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University, U.K.

The University of Ottawa is committed to research excellence and encourages an interdisciplinary approach to knowledge creation, which attracts the best academic talent from across Canada and around the world. The University is an important stakeholder in the National Capital Region’s economic development, with a total regional economic impact estimated at $4 billion annually.

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