Is this a magic bullet for Heart Failure
Scientists are testing a drug that could mend a broken heart. Experiments found the medicine, which is usually used to treat cancer, shrank enlarged and diseased hearts back down to
near normal size, allowing them to work properly again. Now the drug is about to be given to human heart patients for the first time. In the future, it could be used to prevent and treat heart failure.
The medicine tested belongs to a family of drugs called histone deacetylases, which are already used to treat tumours. But research from the University of Texas’s Southwestern heart centre shows that they also temper autophagy, a process in which cells eat their own proteins. Autophagy allows cells to tidy up unwanted debris. But when it gets out of control, too many vital parts are eaten and the cells die. In hearts, this can further damage those which are already diseased. The researchers gave the drug to mice with high levels of autophagy and enlarged hearts that could fail, with incredible results.
Joseph Hill, the heart centre’s chief of cardiology, said: ‘The heart decreased back to near its normal size, and heart function that had previously been declining went back to normal. That is a powerful observation where disease regression, not just disease prevention, was seen.’ He hopes the drug could be used to repair hearts damaged by heart attacks and other forms of disease.
Preliminary tests are due tostart on heart patients. If successful, larger-scale trials will follow.The tests that led to the breakthrough began ‘decades ago’ on yeast, said the researchers, but only now does it seem likely
it can be adapted to the human heart.
The approach is one of several being explored currently around the world including the British Heart Foundation mending broken hearts campaign.