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Researchers Optimistic About Heart Damage Prevention

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Friday, September 12, 2008 4:15 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA & Prescription Drugs, Heart Attack, Bypass Surgery, ALDH2 Enzyme, Nitroglycerin, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease


IMAGE SOURCE: © iStock Photo / Heartbeat / author: Eraxion

A new report by US researchers reveals they have discovered an enzyme that may work to reduce the damage caused by a heart attack and during heart bypass.

A research team led by said Daria Mochly-Rosen, a professor of chemical and systems biology at Stanford University, led a study that observed mice with increased levels of the ALDH2 enzyme had suffered less damage during a heart attack.

The ALDH2 enzyme is best known for its role in helping the body to process alcohol.

Researchers found increasing levels of the enzymes before inducing a heart attack in the mice lowered the amount of dead heart tissue by as much as 60 percent, according to the study.

Myocardial infarction literally means "death of heart tissue." Such death is caused by oxygen deprivation, which in turn may be caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. Often, blocked or constricted arteries are to blame. The longer the heart is deprived of life sustaining blood and oxygen, the more damage is endured; hence the importance of rapid medical intervention.

After discovering ALDH2 was capable of reducing heart tissue damage, researchers started screening other molecules to find which ones would help to increase its production.

The Alda-1 molecule proved effective and may be a potential drug target in the future if the findings on mice can be imitated in human trials.

Researchers believe ALDH2’s protective effect is associated with the removal of cell-damaging molecules, known also as free-radicals.

The activation of ALDH2 activity could very well lead to greater clinical applications. Free radical damage is a major feature of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other various diseases, said researchers.

There is great interest in finding drugs that can help limit damage caused by heart attack or certain surgical procedures, noted researchers. A drug like Alda-1 may help scientists to accomplish such a task.

“The enzyme was found by my researchers long ago, but my team knew only that it helps the body to process alcohol when people drink,” said Mochly-Rosen.

“We have discovered a new pathway for reducing damage caused by free-radicals, such as the damage that occurs during a heart attack.”

It will likely take years before the findings can be studied in human trials and many more before the development of new drugs can be used in clinical practices.

The study is published in the in the September 12 issue of Science. #

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