Heart failure helped by new drug

Fri, 10 Jun 2011
A new breakthrough study on mice has developed a chemical, called thymosin beta 4, which can help the heart repair itself. Scientists at the University College London found that if the thymosin beta 4 drug is taken before a heart attack, it was able to prime the heart for later repair, running against popular opinion that harm caused to the heart by such an attack was permanent.

The study, which was published in the journal Nature, examined a group of cells that can transform into different types of heart tissue in an embryo. It was shown that thymosin beta 4 could, in effect, wake up dormant epicardium-derived progenitor cells that line the heart of adults.

It also managed to get more blood pumping in the heart, while the amount of scar tissue was lowered and the walls of the heart were made thicker.

Researcher Paul Riley, professor of molecular cardiology from the University College London, commented "The adult epicardial cells which line the muscle of the heart can be activated, move inward and give rise to new heart muscle. We saw an improvement in the ejection fraction, in the ability of the heart to pump out blood, of 25 per cent."

With heart attacks being a major cause of death for people with diabetes, drugs used to prevent the onset of heart failure is seen as a positive step. Although it will be many years before such a drug will be commercially available, research on treatments that help to repair the heart will be important for further reducing the numbers of people dying from heart disease .
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