Leicester University researchers believe they have made a major breakthrough in the treatment of heart attack and stoke – two of Britain’s biggest killers, by creating an antibody that reduces the physical scaring of the heart muscle or damage to brain cells.
Heart attacks and stroke are caused by blood flow being blocked by a blood clot or interrupted by a bleed which starves parts of the body of oxygen. However, most of the permanent damage is caused later. When circulation is eventually restored, the body’s own defences attack the oxygen starved cells. This effect commences about 9 to 12 hours after the heart attack or stroke causing serious internal inflammation and doing over 80% of the permanent damage.
Professor Wilhelm Schwaeble of Leicester University said it could be the “biggest breakthrough in the treatment of heart attacks and strokes ever” adding “we could not believe what we saw and nor could the cardiologists. What is amazing is that the drug can be given so long after the attack. Even the slowest ambulance journey in the world is going to get you to hospital within nine hours.”
Around 101,000 people suffer a heart attack each year in England (62,000 men and 39,000 women) and 1 in 3 dies before getting to the hospital. This breakthrough could greatly improve the quality of life for those that survive. Statins are used widely to reduce the risk of heart attack and we have run stories about the importance of Aspirin as a means of improving blood flow and again lowering the risk.
The research has taken place on mice and other mammals and has worked with human blood in the laboratory. The team identified a key enzyme, called Mannan Binding Lectin-Associated Serine Protease-2 (MASP-2) in the process responsible for the immune attack. Once they had done this they developed a protein antibody, code named OMS646, to knock it out. Human trials may begin within two years in the Leicester Biomedical Research Unit at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester.