Aims: The aging heart naturally incurs a progressive decline in function and perfusion that available treatments cannot halt. However, some exceptional individuals maintain good health until the very late stage of their life due to favourable gene-environment interaction. We have previously shown that carriers of a longevity-associated variant (LAV) of the BPIFB4 gene enjoy prolonged health spans and lesser cardiovascular complications. Moreover, supplementation of LAV-BPIFB4 via an adeno-associated viral vector improves cardiovascular performance in limb ischemia, atherosclerosis, and diabetes models. Here, we asked if the LAV-BPIFB4 gene could address the unmet therapeutic need to delay the heart's spontaneous aging.
Methods and results: Immunohistological studies showed a remarkable reduction in vessel coverage by pericytes in failing hearts explanted from elderly patients. This defect was attenuated in patients carrying the homozygous LAV-BPIFB4 genotype. Moreover, pericytes isolated from older hearts showed low levels of BPIFB4, depressed pro-angiogenic activity, and loss of ribosome biogenesis. LAV-BPIFB4 supplementation restored pericyte function and pericyte-endothelial cell interactions through a mechanism involving the nucleolar protein nucleolin. Conversely, BPIFB4 silencing in normal pericytes mimed the heart failure pericytes. Finally, gene therapy with LAV-BPIFB4 prevented cardiac deterioration in middle-aged mice and rescued cardiac function and myocardial perfusion in older mice by improving microvasculature density and pericyte coverage.
Conclusions: We report the success of the LAV-BPIFB4 gene/protein in improving homeostatic processes in the heart's aging. These findings open to using LAV-BPIFB4 to reverse the decline of heart performance in older people.
© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology.