Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States today. Scientists and physicians have been trying to find the best possible remedy for this. One team says they have found it.

Fox news reports on the new study.

A group of scientists has found that a popular antidepressant has the ability to reverse heart failure. Until now, the only remedy for heart failure has been a heart transplant.

A research team at Temple University conducted the study. The findings were based on two decades of research. Dr. Walter Koch, director of the Center for Translational Medicine at TUSM, conducted the study.

What did the results show?

“Findings showed levels of GRK2 rise when the heart is failing.  When the enzyme level was decreased, heart failure reversed.  Scientists then linked the findings to data proving that the common antidepressant paroxetine, commonly known as Paxil, has a side effect that allows it to inhibit GRK2, therefore restoring heart function in mice,” according to Fox.

The heart is a complicated organ.

When the heart muscle is harmed by a heart attack, the body tries to compensate for its lost pumping power, eventually leading to a bigger, less efficient heart. GRK2 has a huge role in this process; this leaves the heart less able to give blood to the entire body.

The disease reversal happened at concentrations of paroxetine just like those found in the blood of patients treated for depression. It is the first small molecule displayed to successfully and selectively turn off GRK2's enzymatic activity, and it is already known to be safe and useable in humans.

CBS news reports,

“According to the American Heart Association, 5.1 million people live with heart failure. That number is expected to increase 25 percent by 2030. While treatment for the condition has improved in recent years, once the deterioration of the heart muscle begins, there has been no way to reverse it without having a heart transplant. Approximately half of those diagnosed with heart failure die within five years. Koch's team tested paroxetine against a placebo and another antidepressant, fluoxetine, commonly known as Prozac. Mice with induced heart failure were treated with placebo, paroxetine, or fluoxetine. Only paroxetine-treated mice showed restored heart function. Traditionally, drugs for heart failure must be taken for life, but in the paroxetine study, the improvement was maintained when the mice were treated for four weeks and then left untreated for two.”

The results were published in the March 4 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine. Dr. Koch said the research findings could mean an entirely new class of drugs for heart failure.

Dr. Koch told CBS news,

“We saw active reversal of ventricular function, reverse remodeling, heart chambers actually got smaller and more muscular, and stoppage of fibrosis that limits the stiffness of the heart. In addition, several molecular and genetic biomarkers that are characteristic of the failing heart were reversed by paroxetine.”

Gerry Oginski
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