Solna [Sweden], March 14 (ANI): Researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden discovered that the hunger hormone ghrelin can increase the pumping capacity of the heart in patients with heart failure in a clinical study. The findings were published in the European Heart Journal.
Millions of people worldwide live with heart failure, a condition where the heart’s pumping function is reduced, for example after a heart attack or angina. In heart failure, the heart muscle weakens, which means that the heart cannot pump the amount of blood needed to supply the body with enough oxygen and nutrients. There are treatments that slow down the progression of the disease, but there are no methods that directly increase the heart’s pumping function.
Ghrelin is an endogenous hormone that has many receptors distributed in cardiac muscle tissues. It increases appetite and stimulates the release of growth hormones. The researchers believe that its receptors are a promising target for improving the heart’s pumping function.
– Heart failure is the most common cause of hospitalization in older generations and is associated with poor quality of life and high mortality, says research director Lars Lund, professor at the Department of Medicine, Solna, Karolinska Institutet, and senior physician at Karolinska University Hospital. “If we can find ways to increase the pumping function of the heart, we can potentially improve the quality of life and the prognosis of these patients.” In this double-blind study, 30 patients with heart failure at Karolinska University Hospital’s cardiology unit have been randomly divided into two groups, receiving either active treatment with ghrelin or a placebo given intravenously for two hours. Participants were followed up after two to five days.
After two hours of treatment, cardiac output (ie, the volume of blood pumped by the heart in one minute) had increased by an average of 28 percent in the ghrelin group, compared to a small decrease in the placebo group. The reason for the increase was that more blood was being pumped from the heart per beat, as the heart rate remained unchanged or even slightly slowed down. At the two- to five-day follow-up, pump capacity was 10 percent higher in the ghrelin group compared to the placebo group.
The researchers observed no serious side effects. For unknown reasons, the ghrelin group had slightly elevated levels of a heart failure biomarker, but more studies would be needed to establish any actual link. As the patient group in the current study was small and the follow-up short, it is difficult to estimate the effectiveness of the treatment in a larger cohort over a longer period of time.
To study the underlying mechanisms responsible for the increase in pump function, the researchers also studied mouse heart cells in the laboratory. They observed that treatment with ghrelin increased the contractile function of heart cells, and they identified a new molecular mechanism for this increase.
The researchers now want to conduct larger clinical studies and with the help of the KI incubator, KI Innovations has launched AnaCardio, a start-up company that develops molecules designed to activate the ghrelin receptors and thus increase the heart’s pumping function.
Some of the researchers have reported potential conflicts of interest, including consulting and lecture fees from various pharmaceutical companies. Lars Lund is the founder of AnaCardio, which develops a ghrelin-based treatment for heart failure. (ANI)