Fumarate greatly reduces heart attack damage in mice

March 7, 2012
Fumarate greatly reduces heart attack damage in mice
Fumarate showed promise in protecting the heart in mice.

(Medical Xpress) -- Boosting levels of the simple compound fumarate in mice significantly reduces damage from a heart attack, an Oxford University-led study has shown.

Fumarate, which comes in the form of simple pills to swallow, is already known to be safe and well-tolerated in humans from trials of the drug in multiple sclerosis and psoriasis.

The researchers say that clinical trials in humans could now go ahead to see if fumarate can reduce injury to the heart in a range of conditions. They are beginning to plan for a trial in patients undergoing heart surgery.

The Oxford University researchers, along with colleagues from the UK, Denmark and the USA, published their findings in the journal Cell Metabolism.

They showed that fumarate greatly reduces the amount of damage occurring in a of a . In mice given fumarate, the amount of dead heart tissue after the heart attack was 9.3% of the whole heart volume. In untreated mice, it was 36.9%.

Dr. Houman Ashrafian of the Department of at Oxford University, who led the study, said: "We have shown that heart attack size in mice can be reduced substantially by boosting their fumarate levels."

Coronary heart disease is still the biggest killer in the UK. It occurs when blocked arteries reduce the blood flow to the heart. The reaching the results in .

A heart attack is caused by a sudden block in the blood flow and rapid treatment is needed to remove the blood clot and re-open the artery. Despite modern treatments contributing to a reduction in , there are still many patients that sustain significant .

There is a need for additional treatments that can help protect the heart – not just in heart attacks but also in patients with a range of conditions whose hearts may be exposed to other causes of injury.

Fumarate is a simple chemical compound or metabolite that forms part of the normal metabolic pathway the body uses to break down food and release energy – the process known as the citric acid or Krebs cycle. But metabolites can also have roles in biological pathways that control the responses of cells to stress, such as low oxygen.

For example, increased levels of fumarate have been implicated in allowing some cancer cells to thrive in the low oxygen levels that surround them.

Some seals that can dive to great depths under the Antarctic where there is little oxygen appear to activate similar biological pathways that employ fumarate.

These lines of evidence led the Oxford University researchers to become interested in whether there was any role of fumarate in heart cells’ response to stress, and whether fumarate could be protective against low oxygen levels.

As well as showing the reduction in heart attack size in mice, the researchers also identified the biological pathways triggered by increased levels of fumarate which appeared to result in the extra protection for the heart.

"The advantages of fumarate are that it would present a relatively safe, cheap drug that wouldn’t need to be given for very long," says Dr. Ashrafian. "It could be used upfront to protect the heart ahead of surgery or other predictable insults. Potentially it may also be beneficial in heart attacks in addition to standard treatments.

"But let’s be clear: it’s great to show we can reduce heart attack damage in mice. It’s another thing altogether to show that fumarate is protective in humans. But it is now ready to test in clinical trials."

Dr. Ashrafian has applied for patents on the use of fumarate in and through Isis Innovation, the University of Oxford-owned technology transfer company.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which was the major funder of the study, said: "This very promising study shows that fumarate, already safely trialled in patients for other conditions, including multiple sclerosis, might be repurposed for the benefit of heart patients. It provides strong foundations to build on in the future, and we look forward to seeing the results of the first clinical trials."

Explore further: Study shows man-made fat may limit damage to heart attack victims

Related Stories

Study shows man-made fat may limit damage to heart attack victims

August 5, 2011
A man-made fat called Intralipid, which is currently used as a component of intravenous nutrition and to treat rare overdoses of local anesthetics, may also offer protection for patients suffering from heart attacks.

Depressed heart function from stress improved by a simple sugar

July 19, 2011
Enhancing the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), an energy carrying molecule in heart cells, may shorten the heart’s recovery time after a heart attack or heart surgery.

Recommended for you

Molecular hitchhiker on human protein signals tumors to self-destruct

July 24, 2017
Powerful molecules can hitch rides on a plentiful human protein and signal tumors to self-destruct, a team of Vanderbilt University engineers found.

Researchers develop new method to generate human antibodies

July 24, 2017
An international team of scientists has developed a method to rapidly produce specific human antibodies in the laboratory. The technique, which will be described in a paper to be published July 24 in The Journal of Experimental ...

New vaccine production could improve flu shot accuracy

July 24, 2017
A new way of producing the seasonal flu vaccine could speed up the process and provide better protection against infection.

A sodium surprise: Engineers find unexpected result during cardiac research

July 20, 2017
Irregular heartbeat—or arrhythmia—can have sudden and often fatal consequences. A biomedical engineering team at Washington University in St. Louis examining molecular behavior in cardiac tissue recently made a surprising ...

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.