March 06, 2012

Drug treatment hope for heart failure patients

MicroscopePatients with heart failure could benefit from drugs already being tested for patients with other conditions, a study we funded has shown.

A group of scientists from the University of Oxford discovered that boosting levels of a naturally occurring substance in the body, called fumarate, could help reduce the damage caused by a heart attack. Drug treatments based on increasing fumarate levels could also benefit patients undergoing heart surgery.

Fumarate plays a part in the body's natural process of converting food into energy. The researchers, part of our Centre of Research Excellence in Oxford, discovered that raising its levels in mice significantly reduced heart damage.

This promising study shows fumarate might be repurposed for the benefit of heart patients

The results pave the way for a possible clinical trial in human patients. The team, led by Dr Houman Ashrafian, plans to try out the effects of boosting fumarate on patients undergoing heart surgery.

Our Associate Medical Director, Professor Jeremy Pearson, said: "This very promising study shows that fumarate, already safely trialled in patients for other conditions, including multiple sclerosis, might be repurposed for the benefit of heart patients. It provides strong foundations to build on in the future, and we look forward to seeing the results of the first clinical trials."

The discovery was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.