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New therapy hope for heart attack patients

11th September 2007

A new therapy has been designed which could help to preserve vessel function following a heart attack, according to scientists.

After a heart attack, blood vessels around the heart do not properly dilate and can constrict because of problems in the cells that line the vessel walls.

Researchers from Ohio State University believe that have found a potential solution that would dilate and reopen blood vessels and therefore improve blood flow.

The solution was suggested after the scientists discovered that in hearts subjected to a lack of blood flow during an attack, vessels are not able to remain dilated because production of the nitric oxide molecule that dilates the vessel stops.

This was found to be due to another molecule, BH4, which prevents nitric oxide and the dilation it causes. It also causes a crucial enzyme to produce an oxidant that leads to constriction of the vessels.

Following these findings the researchers delivered the molecule BH4 directly to the vessels, which in turn partially restored the process that opens and dilates the vessels which improve blood flow to and from the heart.

“This is a useful therapeutic approach and should be easy to translate,” said the study’s senior author Jay Zweier, director of the Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute at Ohio State University Medical Centre.

“This should enable improved treatment of patients with unstable coronary syndromes and heart attacks, allowing enhanced restoration of blood flow and preservation of heart muscle at risk.”

The findings are published online today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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