Soon, a jab to limit damage from cardiovascular events

Updated: Apr 19, 2011, 00:00 AM IST

London: Scientists have developed a new injection that could limit the devastating consequences of heart attacks and strokes, a breakthrough which they say could soon revolutionise treatments for cardiovascular diseases.

An international team led by researchers at University of Leicester said their `achievement` has also potential usage in transplant surgery.

According to the researchers, who detailed their study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they first identified an enzyme, called MASP-2, which is a key component of the lectin pathway of complement activation – a component of the innate immune system.

The lectin pathway is responsible for the potentially devastating inflammatory tissue response that can occur when any bodily tissue or organ is reconnected to blood supply
following ischaemia -- a temporary loss of that blood supply and the oxygen that it carries.

This excessive inflammatory response is partly responsible for the morbidity and mortality associated with myocardial infarction (heart attack) and cerebrovascular
accidents (CVAs or strokes).

Then, the team succeeded in neutralising the enzyme by raising a therapeutic antibody against it. A single antibody injection in animals has been shown to be sufficient to
disrupt the molecular process that leads to tissue and organ destruction following ischaemic events, resulting in significantly less damage and markedly improved outcomes.

"This is a fascinating new achievement in the search for novel treatments to significantly reduce the tissue damage and impaired organ function that occur following ischaemia in
widespread and serious conditions such as heart attacks and strokes," said lead researcher Professor Wilhelm Schwaeble.

"This new potential therapy was also shown in animals to significantly improve outcomes of transplant surgery and may be applicable to any surgical procedure where tissue
viability is at risk due to temporary interruption of blood flow."

"The main focus of our work was to identify a key molecular mechanism responsible for the overshooting inflammatory response that can cause substantial destruction
to tissues and organs following their temporary loss of blood supply, a pathophysiological phenomenon called ischaemia/reperfusion injury," added Professor Schwaeble.

"Limiting this inflammatory response in oxygen-deprived tissues could dramatically improve outcomes and survival in patients suffering heart attacks or strokes."

For more than seven years, the University of Leicester team has been working closely with Omeros Corporation in Seattle to develop therapeutic antibodies for research and
clinical applications.

Omeros holds exclusive worldwide intellectual property rights to the MASP-2 protein, all therapeutic antibodies targeting MASP-2 and all methods for treating disorders by
inhibiting MASP-2. The company has already begun manufacturing scale-up of an antibody for use in human clinical trials.

The first clinical trials evaluating Omeros` human antibody in myocardial infarction patients will be conducted soon in the Leicester Biomedical Research Unit.