From traditional pharmacological towards nucleic acid-based therapies for cardiovascular diseases

Eur Heart J. 2020 Oct 21;41(40):3884-3899. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehaa229.


Nucleic acid-based therapeutics are currently developed at large scale for prevention and management of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), since: (i) genetic studies have highlighted novel therapeutic targets suggested to be causal for CVD; (ii) there is a substantial recent progress in delivery, efficacy, and safety of nucleic acid-based therapies; (iii) they enable effective modulation of therapeutic targets that cannot be sufficiently or optimally addressed using traditional small molecule drugs or antibodies. Nucleic acid-based therapeutics include (i) RNA-targeted therapeutics for gene silencing; (ii) microRNA-modulating and epigenetic therapies; (iii) gene therapies; and (iv) genome-editing approaches (e.g. CRISPR-Cas-based): (i) RNA-targeted therapeutics: several large-scale clinical development programmes, using antisense oligonucleotides (ASO) or short interfering RNA (siRNA) therapeutics for prevention and management of CVD have been initiated. These include ASO and/or siRNA molecules to lower apolipoprotein (a) [apo(a)], proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9), apoCIII, ANGPTL3, or transthyretin (TTR) for prevention and treatment of patients with atherosclerotic CVD or TTR amyloidosis. (ii) MicroRNA-modulating and epigenetic therapies: novel potential therapeutic targets are continually arising from human non-coding genome and epigenetic research. First microRNA-based therapeutics or therapies targeting epigenetic regulatory pathways are in clinical studies. (iii) Gene therapies: EMA/FDA have approved gene therapies for non-cardiac monogenic diseases and LDL receptor gene therapy is currently being examined in patients with homozygous hypercholesterolaemia. In experimental studies, gene therapy has significantly improved cardiac function in heart failure animal models. (iv) Genome editing approaches: these technologies, such as using CRISPR-Cas, have proven powerful in stem cells, however, important challenges are remaining, e.g. low rates of homology-directed repair in somatic cells such as cardiomyocytes. In summary, RNA-targeted therapies (e.g. apo(a)-ASO and PCSK9-siRNA) are now in large-scale clinical outcome trials and will most likely become a novel effective and safe therapeutic option for CVD in the near future. MicroRNA-modulating, epigenetic, and gene therapies are tested in early clinical studies for CVD. CRISPR-Cas-mediated genome editing is highly effective in stem cells, but major challenges are remaining in somatic cells, however, this field is rapidly advancing.

Keywords: Antisense; CRISPR; Cardiovascular diseases; Epigenome; Non-coding genome; Nucleic acid therapeutics; RNA interference.

MeSH terms

  • Angiopoietin-Like Protein 3
  • Angiopoietin-like Proteins
  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Gene Silencing
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia*
  • Nucleic Acids* / therapeutic use
  • Proprotein Convertase 9 / genetics
  • RNA


  • ANGPTL3 protein, human
  • Angiopoietin-Like Protein 3
  • Angiopoietin-like Proteins
  • Nucleic Acids
  • RNA
  • PCSK9 protein, human
  • Proprotein Convertase 9