Cancer drug can reverse heart failure

Autophagy is a process by which cells eat their own proteins to provide needed resources during stress.

Washington: A promising cancer drug can reverse a heart failure resulting from high blood pressure (BP).

The drug, a type of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor being evaluated in ongoing clinical trials, has been shown to reverse the harmful effects of autophagy in heart muscle cells of mice, according to a recent study.

Autophagy is a natural process by which cells eat their own proteins to provide needed resources in times of stress, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

"This opens the way for a new therapeutic strategy in hypertensive (BP related) heart disease, one we can test for potential to promote regression of heart disease," said Joseph Hill, chief of cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre, who led the study.

Hill, senior study author, and other researchers have shown previously that all forms of heart disease involve either too much or too little autophagy, according to a Texas statement.

For example, in the presence of high BP, the heart enlarges, or hypertrophies, and autophagy is turned on. Ultimately, the hypertension-stressed heart can go into failure.

Prior research from Hill`s laboratory has shown that HDAC inhibitors blunt disease-associated heart growth, so researchers designed this study to determine what impact a particular type of HDAC inhibitor had on autophagy.

The researchers engineered mice with overactive autophagy and induced hypertrophy leading to heart failure. Scientists then gave the mice an HDAC inhibitor known to limit autophagy.

"The heart decreased back to near its normal size, and heart function that had previously been declining went back to normal," Hill said. "That is a powerful observation where disease regression, not just disease prevention, was seen."


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