Glucocorticoids are steroid hormones that have numerous functions; for example, they regulate the response to stress and suppress inflammation. Synthetic glucocorticoids are used clinically in many situations, most famously to treat asthma, allergies, and autoimmunity.
They have also been shown in animals and humans to help protect the heart from the damaging effects of heart attack, and this has been attributed to their anti-inflammatory effects. However, Motoaki Sano and colleagues, at Keio University School of Medicine, Japan, have now determined another mechanism by which glucocorticoids protect rodent hearts from the damaging effects of heart attack.
Specifically, glucocorticoids, acting via the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), induced mouse and rat heart muscle cells to produce PGD2, and this was responsible for the ability of glucocorticoids to reduce damage to mouse hearts in both an ex vivo and an in vivo model of heart attack.
The authors therefore suggest that GR-selective glucocorticoids might be more beneficial to humans following heart attack than glucocorticoids that activate both GR and the MR protein, activation of which occurs in response to stress and might have unwanted consequences.
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