News of Note—Gene therapy to repair hearts; one weapon for Zika and dengue; inhibiting a cancer-promoting enzyme

Heart 1
A novel type of gene therapy is showing promise for reversing heart failure.

Gene therapy to relieve heart failure

Using a novel type of gene therapy, scientists at The Mount Sinai Hospital were able to improve heart function by up to 25% in a pig model of non-ischemic heart failure. The team used catheterization to administer a therapeutic gene delivery vector to the animals through their coronary arteries. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, they reported that the treatment was safe and reversed heart failure in both the left ventricle and left atrium. It also reduced heart size in the affected animals by 10%—a notable finding because an enlarged heart is frequently seen in people with heart failure. (Release)

Fending off Zika and dengue with a single antibody

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have hunted down an antibody that may protect against Zika and dengue—two viruses that are spread by the same type of mosquito. In partnership with a scientist at Imperial College London, the team chose one anti-dengue antibody and genetically engineered it so it would be unlikely to exacerbate symptoms should a different strain of the virus emerge after treatment. When they tested the antibody in mouse models of both diseases, they discovered that it neutralizes the dengue virus in mice and that it protects adult animals and fetuses from Zika. They published their findings in the journal Nature Immunology. (Release)

Targeting a cancer-promoting enzyme with a malaria drug

An enzyme called PPT1 is significant in cancer because it aids both the growth-promoting protein mTOR and autophagy, the process by which cancer cells become resistant to treatment. Now scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have found a way to target PPT1—and prevent it from becoming resistant to treatment—using a modified form of the antimalarial drug quinacrine. In a study published in the journal Cancer Discovery, the team reports that the drug, called DQ661, inhibited tumor growth in mouse models of melanoma, pancreatic cancer and colorectal cancer. (Release)