CAR T cell therapy may be harnessed to treat heart disease

Immunotherapy reduces cardiac fibrosis and restores heart function in mice after cardiac injury, according to Penn researchers.

CAR T cell therapy, a rapidly emerging form of immunotherapy using patients’ own cells to treat certain types of cancers, may be a viable treatment option for another life-threatening condition: heart disease.

Rendering of tumors surrounding a heart

In a first-of-its-kind study, published today in Nature, researchers from Penn used genetically modified T cells to target and remove activated fibroblasts that contribute to the development of cardiac fibrosis—a scarring process found in most forms of heart disease that results in heart stiffness and decreased function of the heart. The team found the approach significantly reduced cardiac fibrosis and restored heart function in mice with heart disease caused by high blood pressure. 

“The ability to harness patients’ own cells to fight cancer has been one of the most promising research breakthroughs of the past decade, and we are excited to find ways to leverage this same type of technology to address other common illnesses,” says the study’s corresponding author Jonathan A. Epstein, executive vice dean, chief scientific officer and the William Wikoff Smith Professor of Cardiovascular Research. “While much more research is needed before we can introduce this approach into the clinical setting, this marks a significant step forward in our efforts to treat—and potentially reverse—a condition that accelerates the progression of heart failure.” 

Read more at Penn Medicine News.