Geelong research reveals new hope for obesity-induced heart disease

February 3, 2024 BY

Deakin University medical biology Professor Sean McGee. Photo: SUPPLIED

RESEARCHERS at Deakin University have identified a connection between obesity and amyloid beta, a protein known for its role in Alzheimer’s Disease development.

Obesity-induced heart disease, impacting up to 10 per cent of some age groups, has been largely deemed untreatable, with a survival rate of only 25 per cent beyond five years after diagnosis.

Deakin University medical biology Professor Sean McGee said that amyloid beta is traditionally associated with brain plaque formation in Alzheimer’s.

Recent findings, however, show its secretion from fat tissue into the bloodstream, marking a significant breakthrough.

“We looked at both lean mice and mice that were fed a high fat diet that results in obesity, and it was clear that obese mice had much higher levels of amyloid beta in their blood,” Professor McGee said.

Further tests revealed amyloid beta’s potential role in heart disease when normal mice, treated with the protein, developed cardiac issues akin to those caused by obesity.

“We observed that amyloid beta accumulated in the mitochondria of the heart – the powerhouses of the cell that generate energy – and prevented energy generation in heart cells,” Professor McGee said.

Amyloid beta’s accumulation in heart cell mitochondria disrupts energy production, critical given the heart’s high energy demands.

This mechanism suggests a direct pathway by which obesity leads to heart disease, providing a target for therapeutic intervention.

This discovery challenges previous beliefs that amyloid beta’s harmful effects were limited to the brain.

It also identifies fat tissue’s amyloid beta production and release as a heart disease contributor.

The study proposes repurposing Alzheimer’s treatments to combat obesity-related heart failure, given their effectiveness in blocking amyloid beta.

With these therapies already human-tested for safety, they offer a shortcut to clinical trials, potentially accelerating treatment availability by a decade.

Professor McGee is now seeking support to further the research, offering hope for treating what was once considered an untreatable condition.

“Obesity-induced heart disease has to now been considered an untreatable condition however this study shines a light on how it develops and provides a viable pathway for its treatment, and we are working to provide new hope to patients with this very challenging condition.”