Saturday, 31 July 2010

A Pill That Can Stop a Heart Attack

Elafin. Remember the name because this is the protein which may greatly increase a heart attack victim's chances of survival. Elafin helps the skin and lungs heal and is developed by the body to protect the organs most often attacked by outside infection.

Researchers in Scotland are on the verge of a major breakthrough in developing a pill that can stop heart attacks. There is now enough laboratory evidence to warrant a recommendation of a Medical Research Council (MRC) grant of £500,000 for the first stage of the trials towards a pill using an elafin compound in hospital - at the cardiac unit in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary - to see if it can also work on the heart. The goal is to prove the elafin drug can neutralise the enzymes that damage the heart during cardiac arrest and then make repairs.

The pioneering step of lead investigator, Dr Peter Henriksen, will involve studying elafin's effects on a person's heart for the first time. It'll be done when they are in a controlled, simulated state similar to a heart attack - during by-pass surgery.

“It is a beautiful protein. Elafin has a neutralising effect and a very destructive effect on enzymes, which break down other proteins and are central to the initial inflammatory response in many diseases.

“It seems not only to be able to neutralise the effects but it has an effect of directly removing or killing off bacteria.

“What I want to do as a cardiologist is bolster the concentrations of elafin in an organ which doesn’t produce elafin naturally, and that is the heart.

“There is a huge amount of pre-clinical data suggesting that elafin is effective in reducing the size of heart attacks and then reducing problems in the arterial wall, which may occur during treatment for arterial disease.

“During bypass surgery the heart is paused or stopped purposely so that the surgeon can conduct the surgery and during that period blood flow is interrupted to the heart muscle. So what we have here is something that is a controlled and safer version of what happens during a heart attack.

“If we can have proof of principle here that there is an effect, that would pave the way to further studies.”

The university has signed an agreement to develop the drug with a US company called Proteo Biotech which owns world rights to producing elafin compounds for humans.

I know several people who have had life-saving surgery from the cardiac teams at Edinburgh Royal and have nothing but praise for their dedication. Some travel hundreds of miles for treatment because this hospital is a real centre of excellence where cardiac treatment is concerned. We can but hope the trials are successful and a pill is available to reduce not only the 10,000 annual coronary deaths in Scotland, but hundreds of thousands worldwide.


Joe Public said...

Shouldn't the Herald's report begin "Researchers in Scotland....."

They could be (& probably are) of many nationalities.

e.g. Henriksen is a Scandinavian patronymic surname, meaning son of Henrik.

subrosa said...

I'll change my post Joe because I did mean to do that. Yes I know Henriksen is of Scandanavian origin. It's common in all countries.

Dramfineday said...

Yahoo! More good news. I hope it's a flyer as since Dram'S faither just had bypass surgery late last year, there's a good chance I'll be in the same boat at some's hoping it does the business.

wisnaeme said...

Aye, can't come soon enough. especially when yer knees and other places are tender and purple patched with tiny burst blood vessels. A side effect from the taking of smarties to combat heart and artery problems, I'm afraid to say.
Aye, bring it on.

subrosa said...

From what I can gather there should be few side effects from elafin as it's a natural protein but they may have to use additives of course. Do hope the trials are successful Dram.

subrosa said...

Wisnaeme, hang on there. The pill should be here within 5 years if all goes according to plan.

JuliaM said...

Now, that's exactly the sort of thing we need more of in the NHS! Why not take away the money they are spending on restoring virginity and give it to this team?

subrosa said...

Exactly Julia, well said.

Anonymous said...

I see some cardiologists prefer to busy themselves working at the wrong end of the stick to increase NHS costs and pharma profits instead of looking for ways to prevent heart attacks and cut costs in a such that quality is preserved or improved; what a pity there's not a pill to cure them of that ;)

Here we have a cardiologist that can't make the link between stress and heart attacks. How do I know that? I know "Dr" Henriksen is aware of a paper on the cardiovascular manifestations of PTSD but doesn't think PTSD causes heart disease. So, would I take his pill? No. Would I want him treating me? No.

Instead of moonlighting for grants, if cardiologists made it their priority not to keep patients waiting (you can queue for more than a week) then there would be less tissue damage to worry about.

There is a better way, but that way is side stepped.

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