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New heart therapy is a game-changer

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Lead researcher Professor Hugh Watkins

Lead researcher Professor Hugh Watkins

Lead researcher Professor Hugh Watkins

The news potentially thousands of lives could be saved thanks to coronary research is extremely welcome.

Inherited heart muscle diseases affect 7,600 here, and kill at least one person under the age of 35 every month.

Now, the team at CureHeart is on the verge of introducing an injectable cure for genetic cardiomyopathies — something that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.

Thanks to advances in technology and new medical avenues opened up by groundbreaking research, what was once deemed science fiction is becoming science fact, with treatments able to edit or silence the faulty genes that cause these conditions.

The breakthrough also shows how vital funding and international partnerships can potentially develop cures to some of the deadliest diseases.

CureHeart, involving scientists from the UK, US and Singapore, was able to progress its pioneering work thanks to one of the largest non-commercial grants ever given, via the British Heart Foundation’s Big Beat Challenge.

One of the saddest aspects of genetic cardiomyopathies is that those affected have a 50/50 risk of passing on their faulty genes to their children.

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In many cases, several members of the same family may develop heart failure, need a transplant, or die from cardiac issues at a young age — compounding the pain felt down the generations.

This is evident in the case of local woman Grace Harshaw, who was diagnosed with an inherited heart muscle disease in 2019, only to later learn that she had passed it on to her son Noel.

“For me, by far the hardest thing was when Noel was diagnosed as having the same faulty gene as me,” she said.

“I would rather have been twice as bad and freed him from it. I find it hard to accept he has the gene.”

The advance means CureHeart may now be able to help Noel and other generations of Grace’s family.

The significance of the breakthrough was summed up by Professor Hugh Watkins of the British Heart Foundation, the lead researcher for the CureHeart team.

“This is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to relieve families of the constant worry of sudden death, heart failure and potential need for a heart transplant,” he said.

The headlines in this day and age are often filled with doom and gloom.

So it’s nice to report something so positive in the form of a trailblazing medical advance that will transform lives.


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