1. Department of Medicine (Cardiology), Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA.
2. Department of Surgery, Carlyle Fraser Heart Center, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA.
3. Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, Darlinghurst, New South Wales, Australia.
4. Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Cardiology Division, Atlanta, GA, USA.
5. Emory University School of Medicine and Georgia Institute of Technology, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Atlanta, GA, USA.
#These authors contributed equally to this work.
Rationale: Doxorubicin is a widely used anticancer drug. However, its major side effect, cardiotoxicity, results from cardiomyocyte loss that causes left ventricle (LV) wall thinning, chronic LV dysfunction and heart failure. Cardiomyocyte number expansion by thyroid hormone (T3) during preadolescence is suppressed by the developmental induction of an ERK1/2-specific dual specificity phosphatase 5 (DUSP5). Here, we sought to determine if a brief course of combined DUSP5 suppression plus T3 therapy replaces cardiomyocytes lost due to preexisting doxorubicin injury and reverses heart failure.
Methods: We used in vivo-jetPEI to deliver DUSP5 or scrambled siRNA to ~5-week-old C57BL6 mice followed by 5 daily injections of T3 (2 ng/µg body weight). Genetic lineage tracing using Myh6-MerCreMer::Rosa26fs-Confetti mice and direct cardiomyocyte number counting, along with cell cycle inhibition (danusertib), was used to test if this treatment leads to de novo cardiomyocyte generation and improves LV contractile function. Three doses of doxorubicin (20 µg/g) given at 2-weekly intervals, starting at 5-weeks of age in C57BL6 mice, caused severe heart failure, as evident by a decrease in LV ejection fraction. Mice with an ~40 percentage point decrease in LVEF post-doxorubicin injury were randomized to receive either DUSP5 siRNA plus T3, or scrambled siRNA plus vehicle for T3. Age-matched mice without doxorubicin injury served as controls.
Results: In uninjured adult mice, transient therapy with DUSP5 siRNA and T3 increases cardiomyocyte numbers, which is required for the associated increase in LV contractile function, since both are blocked by danusertib. In mice with chronic doxorubicin injury, DUSP5 siRNA plus T3 therapy rebuilds LV muscle by increasing cardiomyocyte numbers, which reverses LV dysfunction and prevents progressive chamber dilatation.
Conclusion: RNA therapies are showing great potential. Importantly, a GMP compliant in vivo-jetPEI system for delivery of siRNA is already in use in humans, as is T3. Given these considerations, our findings provide a potentially highly translatable strategy for addressing doxorubicin cardiomyopathy, a currently untreatable condition.
Keywords: doxorubicin cardiotoxicity, heart failure, cardiomyocytes, DUSP5, thyroid hormone