A team from the National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) discovered two essential proteins for cardiac metabolism after birth. Its importance is “fundamental”, according to a study published in magazine PLoS Biology, since the change in cardiac metabolism during the first few days produces irreversible damage to the heart and a variation in the entire metabolism that it causes diabetes and the reduction of the animals’ thermoregulatory capacity.

Fortunately, the work shows “that these effects can be treated through a change in diet,” he says. Guadeloupe Wise, director of the group that made these discoveries.

After birth, the heart goes through a period of accelerated growth that requires a large supply of energy.

During the fetal develop and in the first few days after birth, the heart’s main source of energy comes from the glucose which is stored in the form of glycogen. However, after birth, this organ goes through a period of accelerated growth that requires a large supply of energy, therefore, as explained by the main author. Ayelen Santamans, the heart has to be “much more efficient at getting energy”.

Relationship of cardiac metabolism to the rest of the body

The study shows that some proteins, named p38γ and p38d, are activated in the heart soon after birth and reduce the activity of the enzyme responsible for the production of glycogen. This triggers a metabolic change in this organ, which then starts using fat acids to produce its energy.

The change in cardiac metabolism during postnatal development causes irreversible damage, the consequences of which become evident in adulthood: resistance to insulin, glucose intolerance and problems maintaining body temperature.

However, it has been found that if the cause is that the heart does not get enough energy, the damage can be corrected by a change in diet. To demonstrate this, the researchers gave mothers a high fat diet.

If the mother followed a high-fat diet, the newborns did not show cardiac damage or the symptoms of diabetes seen when p38γ and p38d proteins were not activated at the right time.

The results showed that the newborns did not have cardiac damage or the symptoms of diabetes seen when these two discovered proteins are not activated at the proper time of development.

This work indicates, for the first time, that cardiac metabolism during the postnatal phase is fundamental in regulation of metabolism of the entire organism. In fact, the authors explain, “What they found is that the gradual increase in p38γ and p38δ is very well controlled and that their change leads to an energy deficit that is detrimental to both the heart and the metabolism of the rest of the body. . “

Researchers consider that both p38γ and p38δ may be behind some of the congenital diseases of cardiometabolic origin whose cause is currently unknown. Furthermore, they suggest that food supplementation may be a valid treatment to treat these types of illnesses.


Santamans et al. “Control of cardiac and whole body metabolism by alternative p38s”. PLOS Biology. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001447 November 10, 2021 2/34

Rights: Creative Commons.



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