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VCU study focuses on preventing heart failure

Researchers investigate novel anti-inflammatory drug

Pilot studies conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University show a novel anti-inflammatory drug may help to prevent heart failure.

Researchers at VCU are studying the response of the heart to an injury, such as a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction), and how the intensity of the inflammatory response affects the healing process and the progressive weakening of the heart, or heart failure.

The VCU-ART studies included 40 patients suffering from a heart attack who received treatment with the anti-inflammatory drug, anakinra, used to block a central mediator in the inflammatory response to tissue injury during a heart attack.

“We followed the patients for three months and measured the intensity of the inflammatory response, how the heart healed after the acute myocardial infarction and how many patients developed heart failure, which manifested as shortness of breath, tiredness and swelling,” said Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine in the VCU School of Medicine. “In these pilot studies, we found that anakinra quenched the inflammation in the heart during acute myocardial infarction and appears to prevent heart failure.”

According to Abbate, additional research studies are needed to confirm and expand on the findings from the pilot study.

“If confirmed in larger studies, anakinra or similar drugs may be added to other medications used to promote healing after a heart attack and prevent patients from developing heart failure,” said Abbate.

The interdisciplinary research team involved in the study included Benjamin Van Tassell, Pharm.D., assistant professor of pharmacy in the VCU School of Pharmacy; George Vetrovec, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the VCU Pauley Heart Center Adult Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory; Michael Kontos, M.D., associate professor of medicine and director of the VCU Pauley Heart Center Coronary Intensive Care Unit; Charlotte Roberts, nurse practitioner in the Coronary Intensive Care Unity; John Grizzard, M.D., associate professor of radiology from the VCU Department of Radiology and director of Noninvasive Cardiovascular Imaging; and Norbert Voelkel, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the Victoria Johnson Research Laboratory at VCU.

Recently published online in the American Journal of Cardiology, the study was supported by the American Heart Association and the Presidential Research Incentive Program at VCU.


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Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D.
Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D.