Scientists at the Institute of Medical Biology (IMB) and Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology have discovered a hormone that could aid cardiac repair and provide new therapies to common heart diseases and hypertension.
The hormone- which they have named ELABELA- is only 32 amino-acids long, making it among the tiniest proteins made by the human body, the institutes under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) said on Friday.
The team, led by IMB geneticist Bruno Reversade, discovered the ELABELA and carried out experiments to determine its function. Using zebrafish designed to specifically lack this hormone, they found that the hormone is indispensable for heart formation. Zebrafish embryos without this gene had rudimentary or no heart at all. The team also found that the hormone uses a receptor previously believed to be specific to another blood-pressure controlling hormone.
"This discovery shows great promise for the development of targeted therapies for heart disease and blood pressure control in future," said Professor Birgitte Lane, executive director of IMB. As some might have a harmful copy of the ELABELA gene in their genetic make-up, sequencing and screening for this gene in the general population might help detect predisposition to heart anomalies before the disease progresses.