Background: Apoptosis secondary to acute ischemia and chronic remodeling is implicated as a mediator of heart failure. This study was designed to assess the effect of in vivo viral gene transfer of the anti-apoptotic factor Bcl-2 to block apoptosis and preserve ventricular geometry and function.
Methods and results: In a rabbit model of regional ischemia followed by reperfusion, an experimental group treated with adeno-Bcl-2 was compared with a control group receiving empty vector adeno-null. Function was assessed by echocardiography, and sonomicrometry of the border zone was compared with the normal left ventricle (LV). Animals were killed at 6 weeks, and an additional group was killed after 3 days to see whether virus administration conferred an immediate effect. Animals that were administered Bcl-2 maintained higher ejection fractions at 2, 4, and 6 weeks compared with controls. Sonomicrocrystals demonstrated greater protection of border zone fractional shortening at 6 weeks. The Bcl-2 group had superior preservation of LV geometry with less ventricular dilatation and wall thinning. There was also reduced apoptosis compared with the controls. Finally, in the animals killed at 3 days, no functional difference was observed between the Bcl-2 and control groups.
Conclusions: Gene transfer of Bcl-2 preserves LV function after ischemia despite the absence of an observed acute protective effect. The benefit at 6 weeks is postulated to result from a Bcl-2-mediated reduction in apoptosis and ventricular remodeling. Adeno-Bcl-2 administration offers a potential strategy to protect the heart from late postischemic heart failure.