A new treatment could revolutionize the treatment of patients after a heart attack. Hendrik Jan Ankersmit from the Medical University of Vienna has developed a protein solution which can be used to reduce the scarring of tissue caused by inflammation after a heart attack.
In 2009, 16,000 people were admitted to Austrian hospitals with an acute myocardial infarction, with 3,000 of them dying (source: Statistik Austria). Comparable figures from the European Union reveal 2.2 million deaths caused by ischaemic heart disease (source: WHO). Following the usually critical first phase of a heart attack, intensive rehabilitation is carried out and there is a risk of heart failure.
The results of the research carried out by Hendrik Jan Ankersmit, head of the CD Laboratory for Heart and Thorax Diagnosis and Regeneration at the MedUni Vienna, show that this need no longer be the case. Ankersmit has used white blood cells to create a protein solution (APOSEC™) that can be used as a drug during the acute therapy phase following a heart attack. In laboratory tests, the solution was administered as an intravenous infusion 40 minutes after an experimental infarction. As a result, there was virtually no scarring of the heart muscle.
APOSEC™ works by inhibiting the cardiac tissue's inflammatory response following a heart attack. Tests on human cardiac muscle cells -- with highly promising results -- have already been carried out in vitro. Researchers at the MedUni Vienna are hoping to start a series of clinical studies on humans in the near future.
Like blood in a blood bank -- available at all times APOSEC™ contains soluble proteins that are excreted by white blood cells. Harvesting white blood cells for use as 'bio-reactors' is as simple as taking blood. "With protein concentrates, there is little or no defence reaction from the body's immune system. APOSEC™ can therefore be obtained even from unrelated donors," says Ankersmit.
An even greater potential advantage over the conventional stem-cell-based treatment of myocardial infarctions is that the APOSEC™ protein solution can be produced in advance and stored for ready access, just like blood in a blood bank. In the event of an acute infarction, the patient can be treated immediately.
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