An article published by The New York Times showed that scientists may have discovered a cure for heart disease after the experiment done on monkeys showed amazing results.
Treating heart disease
Scientists were able to do the first gene-editing experiments of its kind. They were able to edit two genes in the monkeys that they experimented on, and the said genes are the reason behind the risk of heart disease.
The genes found in the monkeys are also found in humans and the experiment has raised hopes that heart diseases may be tamed in the future.
According to Dr. Michael Davidson, the director of the Lipid Clinic at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, the discovery could be the cure for heart disease.
However, it will take years before the experiment can be tested on humans, and so far, gene-editing technology has a mixed tracked record. It is still early to know if the strategy will be safe to use on humans and if it will have the same effect because even the monkeys that were used for the experiment were monitored for side effects.
On June 27, the results of the experiment were presented at the yearly meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research. The meeting this year was held virtually with 3,700 attendees around the world. The findings of the scientists have not yet been published.
The goal of the scientists is to block out two types of genes, the PCSK9, and the ANGPTL3. According to the National Institue of Health, PCSK9 is a gene that helps regulate the levels of LDL cholesterol in the human body. The ANGPTL3 is a gene that helps regulate triglyceride, which is a type of blood fat. Both genes can be found in the liver.
Those who inherit genes that destroy the functions of PCSK9 and ANGPTL3 are not prone to heart disease. People with increased LDL cholesterol and blood levels of triglycerides have greater risks of heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes.
Drug companies have developed two PCSK9 inhibitors that can lower LDL cholesterol. However, the inhibitors are expensive and they must be injected every couple of weeks.
This made Dr. Sekar Kathiresan, the chief executive of Verve Therapeutics, decide to edit the genes instead. The medicine that they developed has two pieces of RNA, which is a gene editor and a guide that directs the RNA to a single sequence of human DNA.
According to the report, the experiment worked in 13 monkeys, and it showed that every cell of the liver was edited. After editing the gene of the monkeys, the LDL levels of the animals dropped by 59% in just 2 weeks. The ANGPTL3 gene editing led to a decline of 64% in triglyceride levels.
Although the result is promising, it is too early to say if gene editing is safe and long-lasting. If the strategy works in humans, scientists need to work on making it available for everyone, especially the poorer countries since half of the incident of heart attacks do not end up in death, having the injection can help prevent it and can save millions of lives around the world.