[ASC-media] New class of heart drugs a step closer

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Sun Sep 3 22:03:58 CEST 2006

New class of heart drugs a step closer

Monash and Bayer researchers publish trial results

A new drug has been shown to improve blood flow in diseased arteries,
reducing the risk of hypertension and heart attacks, according to a
study published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and an
accompanying Nature Review in Drug Discovery. 

It's a significant step for the joint Monash/Bayer team, who are hoping
to use the drug as part of a revolution in the management of heart
disease. The next step is to translate this work to benefit patients -
with clinical trials of the drug having already been started for acute
heart failure.

"We and our colleagues in Germany and the US have already shown that
oxidative stress, i.e. the appearance of free radicals in the walls of
arteries, is a key mechanism underlying cardiovascular disease," says Dr
Harald Schmidt, Director of the Cardiovascular Health Centre at Monash
University in Melbourne, Australia. 

"As more free radicals appear, they interfere with the ability of the
cells lining arteries to control the contraction and dilation of the
arteries," says Schmidt. "The arteries stiffen and get blocked."

These cells produce nitric oxide to signal to the arterial muscles that
they need to dilate the artery and allow more blood through. But this
signal doesn't get through.

Free radicals destroy a key enzyme that allows the arterial cells to
respond to the signals. Add this to the impact of free radicals on the
formation of arterial blockages, and you have a problem - the beginning
of heart disease and eventually a potential heart attack. 

The new drug - invented by Bayer HealthCare - reactivates the damaged

"Our results, published today, show that the drug directly binds to and
repairs the damaged enzyme. 
And as the number of free radicals increases, the drug starts working
harder," says Schmidt.

Schmidt is creating a new cardiovascular health centre at Monash with
the aim of challenging orthodox thinking on heart disease. 

"Vascular diseases are the number one cause of death worldwide. Yet we
don't know enough about the causes to reliably identify and treat cases,
let alone prevent these diseases," says Schmidt. In up to 95% of the
cases, the root causes of vascular diseases are still unknown. So
clinicians have to rely on 'lifestyle' indicators and 'risk factors'
such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

However, not all people with high blood pressure or high cholesterol are
truly at risk. In fact,  of every 300 people treated,  only one heart
attack or stroke will be prevented. But which one? 
At the same time, many people without any apparent risk factors have
unexpected heart attacks and strokes.

We need a revolution in vascular diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
Today's discovery is an important step along the way.

Further information and interviews: Professor Harald Schmidt, Director,
Centre for Vascular Health Initiative, Monash University, ph +61 3
9905-5752, email: harald.schmidt at med.monash.edu.au
Penny Fannin: +61 (3) 9905-5828, penny.fannin at adm.monash.edu.au

Bayer media release available at www.scienceinpublic.com 

Niall Byrne
Science in Public
Ph +61 3 5253 1391
niall at scienceinpublic.com
OR niallprivate at scienceinpublic.com
PO Box 199, Drysdale Vic Australia

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