New research conducted at King's College London shows that a protein called "Bcl-Rambo," previously thought to be detrimental in the heart, can actually protect against heart failure.
|King's College London Professor Kinya Otsu|
Led by Professor Kinya Otsu, and funded by the British Heart Foundation, they collaborated with a team in Japan and published their work in Nature Communications earlier this week.
Initially named for its role in initiating cell death via the Bcl2 pathway, it turns out that Bcl-Rambo protein is involved in safely clearing damaged mitochondria from heart cells. This is a process known as mitophagy and one that is essential for normal heart function--as a fault in this process has been linked to the progression towards heart failure.
Otsu notes: "Knowing that the process of mitophagy is implicated in the heart is one thing, but we need to know more about the molecules and pathways involved in the process so that we can work towards finding a treatment for heart failure. The discovery of the Rambo protein's importance in protecting cells represents a step forward in understanding of disease processes at the cellular level."
Despite Bcl-Rambo initially earning a bad reputation, it may yet provide a target for heart failure in the future. Understanding the molecular mechanisms lends itself to other fields such as neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease--both of which are linked to problems related to mitophagy.
"This elegant piece of discovery science research has shed light on the misunderstood Rambo protein which may in fact protect heart cells from death in heart failure, revealing a possible target for therapy," says Professor Jeremy Pearson of the BHF. "Further research is now needed to develop methods to control the activity of the protein heart cells."