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Regions of the Genome Once Mislabled as ‘Junk’ are Linked to Pathogenesis of Heart Failure

Dr. Jeanne Nerbonne and a team of Washington University researchers from the Center of Cardiovascular Research (CCR) reported results from a comprehensive analysis of different families of RNA molecules expressed in the human heart. The researchers studied non-failing hearts and failing hearts before and after patients received mechanical pump support from left ventricular assist devices (LVAD). The LVADs increased each heart’s pumping capacity while patients waited for heart transplants.

In the new study, the investigators found that unlike other RNA species, the expression patterns of long noncoding RNAs could distinguish between two major types of heart failure and between failing hearts before and after they received LVAD support. Long noncoding RNA has often been referred to as dark matter or junk RNA because the function of the long noncoding RNA is not known. “We don’t know whether these changes in long noncoding RNAs are a cause or an effect of heart failure,” Nerbonne said. “But it seems likely they play some role in coordinating the regulation of multiple genes involved in heart function.” The research is published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation (2014; 129: 1009-1021).

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