Anaemia drugs could also aid recovery after heart attack, says study

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By Ben Quinn

Findings suggest trial drugs may reduce chance of heart failure for diabetic patients

Hopes have been raised that drugs being trialled to treat anaemia could also be used to aid recovery after a heart attack and help decrease the chance of future heart failure.

Initial results suggest the drugs could be given to people with Type 2 diabetes immediately after a heart attack, according to research funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and Diabetes UK.

Researchers from the University of Oxford found that, after a heart attack, a protein called HIF acts to help cardiac muscle cells survive. In people with diabetes, fats accumulate within the heart muscle and stop the protein from becoming active, increasing the likelihood of lasting damage and ultimately heart failure.

The researchers treated diabetic rats with a drug known to activate the HIF protein. This encourages the heart tissue to recover after an attack.

Almost 3.7 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes, with 90% having Type 2.

Dr Lisa Heather, a BHF research fellow at Oxford who led the research, said the reasons why people with Type 2 were more likely to develop heart failure sooner after an attack had yet to be fully understood.

“What we have shown with this research is that the metabolism of people with Type 2 diabetes means they have higher levels of fatty acids in the heart. This prevents signals going to the heart protective protein telling it to ‘kick-in’ after a heart attack.

“But what is perhaps most exciting, is that existing drugs currently being trialled for people with blood disorders can reverse that effect and allow the protein to be activated after a heart attack.

“This opens the possibility that, in the near future, we could also use these drugs to help treat heart attacks in people with Type 2 diabetes.”

Prof Jeremy Pearson, an associate medical director at the BHF said: “This research in rats has not only identified the mechanism that could explain why people with Type 2 diabetes have poorer outcomes after a heart attack, but also a practical way this might be prevented.

“Further studies will be needed to confirm if the same benefits can be seen in humans.”

The drugs known to activate HIF – Roxadustat, Daprodustat and Vadadustat – are undergoing phase III clinical trials to treat people with anaemia, according to details of the research, which has been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Anna Morris, assistant director of research strategy and partnerships at Diabetes UK, said: “It’s still early days, but this research is helping us to understand how to improve recovery after a heart attack, and we’re looking forward to seeing how this could help people with Type 2 diabetes in the future.”

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