A study of the epigenetic alterations that result in cardiac hypertrophy

Lead Research Organisation: Babraham Institute
Department Name: UNLISTED


Heart disease is a significant cause of mortality in the developed world. In 2004 it was responsible for 137,700 deaths in the UK, equating to 24% of all deaths. A major predictor of mortality due to heart disease is cardiac hypertrophy (an increase in cell size without increase in cell number), and it is the most important risk factor for heart failure in humans. Hypertrophy can however also be a beneficial adaptive response providing the increased blood supply required during pregnancy and to sustain levels of increased physical activity experienced by athletes. Cardiac hypertrophy is characterised by an increase in the muscle mass/size of the heart due to enlargement of heart cells without any proliferation. This increase in heart size is caused by a significant change in the expression levels of a number of genes (the copying of DNA information into RNA and then oftern into protein). This remodelling of gene expression is controlled by factors (transcription factors) that bind to the DNA as well as by proteins that modify the structure and packaging of DNA. In this study, we plan to investigate the mechanisms that control suppression of gene transcription and whether these differ between the poorly reversible pathological forms of hypertrophy and the more reversible compensated hypertrophy.


10 25 50
Description in response to different stresses, the heart grows. This may be as a result of diseases such as myocardial infarction, as a result of chronic exercise or pregnancy. Although heart growth in response to the physiological stimuli is beneficial, when induced by disease, the heart growth is no beneficial and is often a prequel to heart failure - when the heart cannot provide for the body.
In this project we analysed how the genes changed following the different growth stimuli were regulated. We found that changes in the epigenome - the way DNA is packed and regulated in a cell - were altered. The epigenome was altered in a different way for the different growth stimuli.
We also identified how these changes in the epigenome were brought about.
As well as identifying what changes in the epigenome happened in physiological vs pathological cardiac growth, we identified how this was brought about and the enzymes and molecules involved.
This work is now published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation .
Exploitation Route The work remains to be published but will no doubt identify new ways by which heart growth and cell division can be manipulated to enhance function.
For e.g. increase cardiac regeneration during damage or reverse the maladaptive growth.

Our findings suggest strategies to enhance cardiac regeneration and to prevent maladaptive cardiac growth.
The molecules that we identified that are involved in these processes are being further probed to test their utility for therapy.
Sectors Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

URL https://www.jci.org/articles/view/88353
Description Odysseus FWO
Amount € 837,974 (EUR)
Funding ID 90663 
Organisation Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country Belgium
Start 10/2014 
End 09/2019
Description Foo Addenbrookes 
Organisation Addenbrooke's Hospital
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Hospitals 
PI Contribution Analysis of hypertrophic cardiac myocytes from human.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of human hypertrophic heart tissue and histology of heart tissue
Impact Publications in PNAS and Channels in 2009 25784084
Start Year 2008
Description Norway Rats 
Organisation University of Oslo
Department Institute for Experimental Medical Research
Country Norway 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Analysis of Cardiac Myocyte proteome, transcriptome and epigenome.
Collaborator Contribution Provision and phenotyping of hearts hypertrophic due to exercise, aortic banding or ageing.
Impact Publication in JCB in 2012 27893464 23166348
Start Year 2009
Description Nuclear Isolation 
Organisation Karolinska Institute
Department Department of Cell and Molecular Biology
Country Sweden 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Analysis of transcriptome and epigenome of human cardiomyocyte nuclei
Collaborator Contribution Provision of nuclei from human cardiac myocytes
Impact 27893464
Start Year 2010
Description Late nite lab 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Workshop Facilitator
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Adults attended an open evening with talks and exhibits from scientific departments from the Cambridge area. Our research was explained and science in general discussed during a drinks reception.

Several parents asked for guidance regarding scientific careers for their children
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
Description Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Poster Presentation
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact NA
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012