When cardiovascular disease causes heart failure, something that nearly six million Americans suffer from, doctors usually prescribe beta blockers that help to prevent heart cells from dying by blocking beta-adrenergic receptors. However, beta-adrenergic receptors also help keep the heart muscles pumping, which beta blockers tend to inhibit.
Now researchers at Thomas Jefferson University have uncovered another pathway that prevents heart cell death while keeping the heart pumping as vigorously as possible. The research could lead to new medications that will treat heart failure more efficiently according to Science Daily.
One of the researchers, Dr. Jeffrey Benovic, Ph.D., developed molecules called pepducins, derived from pieces of the beta2-adrenergic receptor. The receptor is distinct from the beta1-adrenergic receptor that makes the heart beat stronger. He sent the pepducin to Dr. Douglas Tilley at Temple University after one of his grad students noticed that it shared properties with a common heart drug called carvedilol. Dr. Tilley introduced the molecule to heart cells and found that it made them beat more forcefully. Pepducin caused the beta2-adrenergic receptor to interact with beta-arrestin to facilitate the contraction of heart muscles. The molecule had no effect on the beta1 receptors
More research is needed before the new approach makes its way into a clinical setting. The current version of pepducin only boosted the beta2-adrenergic receptor to between 40 to 50 percent. A little tinkering should bring that number up to 100 percent, however.
The new approach won’t necessarily cure heart failure. But it should make hearts stronger, adding life and quality of life to patients suffering from the disease.
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