Research into a new drug by Australian heart experts has found that it can dramatically reduce heart muscle damage after a heart attack.
The drug, known as Dz13, targets a master disease-causing gene responsible for inflammation and muscle death in the aftermath of a heart attack and may lead to significantly improved patient outcomes.
The researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) say preclinical trials have also found that the drug reduces incidental cell and tissue death resulting from life-saving interventions such as balloon angioplasty and stent placements used to open blocked arteries, or from the delivery of clot-busting drugs.
Lead investigator Professor Levon Khachigian, from UNSW's Centre for Vascular Research says though the drug does not prevent a heart attack, it does reduce the damaging effects of the blockage on the heart once it has happened and is a targeted therapy that can be used to complement other procedures and improve chances of a normal recovery.
Professor Khachigian says the heart muscle suffers damage at two distinct times during a heart attack - first when the initial blockage occurs causing the chest pain and second, when the patient undergoes a "revascularisation" intervention, such as angioplasty or stenting, to reopen the blocked artery.
Significantly, the heart's pumping action is protected by the drug, dramatically improving the patient's chances of a full recovery after a heart attack ,as at both these times a range of potentially damaging coordinated molecular responses kick in says Professor Khachigian.
Professor Khachigian says they have been able to develop a drug to silence a disease-triggering gene and the drug improves heart function, regardless of whether it's administered at the time of the heart attack, or at the time of the revascularisation process.
Co-author, interventional cardiologist Dr. Ravinay Bhindi from Royal North Shore Hospital, says the technique represents an important potential advance in the treatment of heart disease as the drug not only structurally reduces heart attack size but it protects heart muscle function.
Dr. Bhindi says heart attacks are Australia's number one killer and both those things in combination improve outcomes and give hope to patients.
Safety trials of Dz13 are currently underway ahead of Phase 1 human trials.
A paper outlining the animal study appears in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.