Role and therapeutic potential of the novel DWORF peptide in heart disease
Heart disease (HD) is a leading cause of death and disability in New Zealand, and new treatment options are needed.
A recent breakthrough in genetic research concerning so-called non-protein-coding RNA has led to the discovery of a new class of proteins, one of which is called dwarf open reading frame (DWORF). This small protein is found almost exclusively in the heart where it may cause increased contraction of the heart muscle. DWORF levels are decreased in the hearts of people who have had heart attacks, suggesting it plays a role in the development of HD and may have potential as a treatment for restoring the impaired beating of damaged hearts. However, exactly how DWORF works and the effect on the heart of directly administering the protein is unknown.
The goal of this research project is to investigate the effect of DWORF on heart function in normal and damaged hearts (using an ex vivo rat heart attack model), its levels in the heart in both settings, what proteins it interacts with, and how it operates. These highly original studies will further our understanding of this unique protein and might help in the development of a novel treatment strategy for heart disease.
Dr Mbikou is a Research Fellow in the Department of Medicine (Christchurch) at the University of Otago.More About Dr Prisca Mbikou