An experimental drug shows promise in alleviating heart failure and sleep apnea. The corresponding study was published in Nature Communications.
Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot sufficiently pump blood around the body. Despite treatment advances, its prognosis remains poor, and mortality: high. Around 54.7% of patients survive within five years of diagnosis, decreasing to 34.9% after ten years.
Heart failure is often linked to sleep apnea, which contributes to reduced life expectancy. After heart attack and subsequent heart failure, the brain activates the ‘fight or flight’ response to stimulate the heart to pump blood. The brain, however, persists in this activation even when no longer required, leading to sleep apnea. Currently, there are few treatments for sleep apnea; a breathing device known as CPAP is poorly tolerated.
In the current study, researchers supposed that a common target might alleviate both heart failure and associated sleep apnea. To this end, they tested the experimental drug, AF-130, on mouse models of heart failure. The drug both improved the heart’s ability to pump blood and prevent sleep apnea.
“This study has revealed the first drug to temper the nervous activity from the brain to the heart thereby reversing the heart’s progressive decline in heart failure,” said Professor Julian Paton of The University of Auckland, one of the study’s authors, in a press release, “These findings have real potential for improving the wellness and life expectancy of almost 200,000 people living with heart disease in Aotearoa New Zealand.”
The researchers noted that the drug will soon be approved by the FDA for a different condition, meaning that human trials may be possible within a year or two.
“Over recent decades there have been several classes of drugs that have improved the prognosis of heart failure,” said Martin Stiles, cardiology consultant and Associate Professor at the University of Auckland, not involved in the study, in a press release, "However, none of these drugs work in the way that this new agent does. So it is exciting to see a novel method that potentially reverses some features of heart failure."
Sources: EurekAlert, Nature Communications