Protein jab 'could prevent damage from heart attack'

By Pam Magwaza
30 May 2017

A simple injection could prevent damage caused by heart attacks, a new study has found.

The serious health issue typically happens when a clot reduces blood flow to the heart, with a lack of oxygen - potentially causing the muscle to become thin - reducing the heart’s ability to contract.

Experts at University College Cork tested an injection containing a protein known as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). Recruiting 47 heart attack survivors, 16 patients were given a low dose of 1.5 nanograms of the protein between two and 12 hours after the attack. A further 16 received a higher dose of 15 nanograms, while the remaining participants received a dummy drug.

It was discovered that the higher the amount of IGF-1, the bigger the increase in diastolic volume, meaning the heart is working more efficiently. There was also less scarring in the higher dosage when compared to the smaller amount and none at all, an MRI scan showed.

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"When IGF-1 gets in the heart it stimulates receptors on cardiac cells. Within about 30 minutes, it sends a survival signal to the heart muscle cells," Professor Noel Caplice stated, noting that if larger studies gave similar results that the jab could be available to the public in the next five years.

The research also won the approval of Professor Stephen Westaby, a heart surgeon at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, who praised the research and injection as a move in "the right direction".

And as the jab could prevent damage before heart failure takes place, this means drugs such as beta blockers and inhibitors can potentially be used less.

While they aim to preserve the heart's health, around 40 per cent of people who suffer heart failure still die within a year of their first hospital stay.

The results were shared at European Society of Cardiology conference in Paris.

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