A new drug offers hope for warding off heart failure associated with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. A study shows that the chemical, called poloxamer 188, strengthens heart muscle cells, making them less likely to break under strain. Researchers led by Joseph Metzger studied individual heart muscle cells, or cardiac myocytes, from mice lacking the protein dystrophin, a deficiency that causes muscular dystrophy. These cells were more likely to break when stretched, because holes in the cell membrane allow in more calcium ions, which in turn trigger abnormal contraction that rips the cell apart.
Cells treated with poloxamer 188, however, did not show such weakness, the researchers report in a paper to be published online in Nature on 17 July. Mice with muscular dystrophy were also saved from stress-induced heart failure when treated with the drug. The chemical therefore shows promise for treating human sufferers, the authors add, but medical trials will be needed to determine the appropriate dose and ensure that the drug is safe.
Joseph Metzger (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA)
(C) Nature press release
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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