Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle weakens and is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. It is a serious and progressive disease that affects millions of people around the world. A new drug, however, may offer hope to heart failure patients. A new drug is showing promise in treating heart failure, a common condition linked to sleep apnea and a shorter lifespan.
The drug, known as AF-130, was tested in an animal model at Waipapa Taumata Rau, the University of Auckland, where researchers discovered that it improved the heart’s ability to pump while also preventing sleep apnea, which reduces lifespan (see Nature Communications). “This drug does provide benefit for heart failure, but it also provides benefit for apnoea, for which there is currently no drug, only CPAP (a breathing device), which is poorly tolerated,” says Professor Julian Paton, director of the University’s Manaaki Manawa, Centre for Heart Research.
This study has revealed the first drug to temper nervous activity from the brain to the heart, thereby reversing the heart’s progressive decline in heart failure. These findings have real potential for improving the wellness and life expectancy of almost 200,000 people living with heart disease in Aotearoa New Zealand.Professor Paton
When a person suffers a heart attack and subsequent heart failure, the brain responds by activating the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, in order to stimulate the heart to pump blood. However, the brain continues to activate the nervous system even when it is no longer needed, and this, along with the resulting sleep apnea, contributes to the patient’s reduced life expectancy. The majority of patients die within five years of being diagnosed with heart failure.
“This study has revealed the first drug to temper nervous activity from the brain to the heart, thereby reversing the heart’s progressive decline in heart failure,” Professor Paton says.
It is important to note that further studies are needed to confirm the long-term safety and efficacy of vericiguat, and to determine which patients are most likely to benefit from the drug. However, the results of this study offer hope for the millions of people living with heart failure, and provide a promising avenue for future research and treatment.
The part of the brain that sends nervous impulses to the heart is also controlling respiration, so this drug has a dual function, reducing the ‘fight or flight’ response while also stimulating breathing to stop the sleep apnoea. “These findings have real potential for improving the wellness and life expectancy of almost 200,000 people living with heart disease in Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Professor Paton.
Another exciting factor for the scientists from the University of Auckland and the University of So Paulo in Brazil is that the drug is about to be FDA approved for a different health issue, paving the way for human trials in the next year or two, according to Professor Paton.
“Several classes of drugs have improved the prognosis of heart failure in recent decades,” says cardiology consultant and Associate Professor Martin Stiles. “However, none of these drugs work as well as this new agent.” So it’s exciting to see a new method that could potentially reverse some of the symptoms of heart failure.”
The results of this study are very promising, as heart failure is a condition that is often difficult to treat. Standard treatment options include lifestyle changes, medications, and, in some cases, surgery. However, even with these treatments, many patients continue to experience symptoms and have a poor prognosis.