Researchers at the University of Alberta have developed a synthetic peptide that could be the first in a new class of drugs to treat heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Researchers at the U of A found that a deficiency in the peptide apelin is associated with heart failure, pulmonary hypertension and diabetes. They also developed a synthetic version that targets pathways in the heart and promotes blood vessel growth.
Lead author Gavin Oudit, an associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, said the synthetic form of apelin is far more stable and potent than the naturally occurring peptide, making drug therapies possible.
"It's a new group of drugs that we hope can be used for a wide variety of disorders, all of which have a huge economic burden on the health-care system," said Oudit, a cardiologist and clinician-scientist at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute.
Oudit's research group studied apelin deficiency in the hearts of mice and humans through the Human Explanted Heart Program, or HELP. The HELP program allows for the study of specimens obtained from patients undergoing a heart transplant.
The research team found that hearts from patients who suffered heart attacks were deficient in apelin, which is needed for angiogenesis-the formation of new blood vessels that helps the body adapt after tissue damage from heart attacks.