February 23, 2009

Statins may regenerate heart muscle

U.S. researchers show that the drug pravastatin, a statin, may be able to prevent the development of heart disease by regenerating diseased heart muscle.

In a paper, published in Circulation Research, University at Buffalo researchers report that pravastatin mobilizes bone marrow progenitor cells -- blood stem cells that are able to transform into many different types of cells -- which infiltrate the heart and develop into cardiac muscle cells, or myocytes, improving cardiac function.

The research was carried out in UB's Center for Research in Cardiovascular Medicine, using the center's unique swine model of hibernating myocardium -- a condition in which myocytes reduce their contraction yet remain viable in areas that have received reduced blood flow over an extended period of time due to narrowed arteries.

The finding that a drug with an excellent safety profile used widely to lower blood cholesterol is effective in improving cardiac function in hibernating myocardium is a welcome finding, first author Dr. Gen Suzuki said in a statement.

This provides a new strategy for treating patients with ischemic heart failure who are not candidates for coronary artery bypass graft surgery or coronary balloon angioplasty.

Pravastatin increased the number of progenitor cells in bone marrow in proportion to the dose of the drug and this occurred in as little as five weeks after treatment with pravastatin in animals, the researchers said.