JAN 25, 2018 6:14 AM PST

The Surprising Role of Metabolism in Congestive Heart Failure

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

When the heart deviates from its normal source of energy, congestive heart failure can develop. From the German Cancer Research Center, scientists are showing the importance of metabolism in the science of heart failure.

Chest radiograph of an 83 year old man with previous coronary artery bypass surgery indicating intermediate congestive heart failure.

Healthy hearts use fatty acids for 75 percent of their energy source, but weak hearts switch to using carbohydrates as energy. In the new study, researchers discovered that, on its own, the shift from fatty acids to carbohydrates leads to congestive heart failure.

Congestive heart failure, also known as cardiac insufficiency, is characterized by the heart’s failure to pump enough blood throughout the body. Symptoms like shortness of breath, buildup of watery fluid, and “diminished exercise capacity” are seen, and the condition is eventually lethal.

Notch-1, a receptor molecule, is at the center of this study’s discovery. Notch-1 is responsible for ferrying fatty acids from the blood to the heart muscle, where they can be used as energy. Without Notch-1, another signaling pathway is activated: mTOR. This pathway triggers unhealthy growth of the heart muscle, further contributing to heart failure.

In their studies, scientists inactivated Notch-1 in mice and genetically modified mice to contain inactivated Notch-1 in cells lining the surface of the blood vessels. Both groups of mice developed heart failure.

"For nutrients to travel from the blood vessels into the heart muscle, they must be transported through the endothelial cells,” explained first author Markus Jabs. “With Notch-1 inhibited, the heart has less fatty acids available and it must shift to glucose as an energy source.”

While it may be possible to to counter the effects of metabolic shift from fatty acids to carbohydrates by blocking the mTOR signaling pathway or via a low-carb diet, team leader Andreas Fischer doesn’t suggest either actions as a solution to the problem illustrated by the findings in the new study.

"However, this does not mean that we should completely erase carbohydrates from our meal plan in order to prevent heart failure," Fischer said. "But our results show the immense impact that a change in metabolism, such as in inherited or acquired metabolic disorders, has on the course of congestive heart failure."

The present study was published in the journal Circulation.

Sources: MedlinePlus.gov, German Cancer Research Center

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 24, 2019
Cardiology
JUN 24, 2019
Understanding Endocarditis
The endocardium is the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves. Endocarditis is an infection of this lining. If not treated quickly, endocarditis can...
AUG 01, 2019
Cardiology
AUG 01, 2019
Preventing Sarcopenia In Older Adults
The loss of muscle mass associated with aging, called sarcopenia, begins at about age 30 and continues throughout an individual's lifespan. This muscle...
AUG 20, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
AUG 20, 2019
Discovery of Bone Bits in Blood may Help Explain Vascular Calcification
As we age, calcium can build up in various tissues in the body, and cause them to harden in a process called calcification....
OCT 09, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
OCT 09, 2019
Drug Increases Survival Rates for Heart Failure Patients
Scientists have demonstrated in preclinical studies that a drug called ‘Aliskiren’ works by inhibiting the activity of an enzyme involved in bl...
OCT 21, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
OCT 21, 2019
Therapeutic Targets Inflammation Associated with Genetic Heart Disease
Often times when young athletes collapse during the game it is due to sudden cardiac death as a result of the inherited arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (ACM)...
FEB 07, 2020
Cardiology
FEB 07, 2020
Eating Red and Processed Meats Increases Heart Disease Risk
Although the link between consuming processed meats and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is well established, studies focusing on the link...
Loading Comments...