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Compound Could Reduce Heart Attack Damage
Date:9/11/2008

Acts against destructive free radicals, researchers say

THURSDAY, Sept. 11 (HealthDay News) -- A newly developed molecule holds the promise of reducing the damage done by heart attacks and a number of diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, researchers report.

Oh, it might cure hangovers, too, but the scientists working on it prefer to downplay that aspect of their research.

The molecule is called Alda-1, although its chemical name is "quite a bit more complicated," said Thomas D. Hurley, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Indiana University, who is working with researchers at Stanford University on the project. It has been given that name, because it activates an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2), best known until now for its role in the processing of alcohol.

ALDH2 was unexpectedly found to play a role in protecting the heart from damage, said Daria Mochly-Rosen, a professor of chemical and systems biology at Stanford, and lead author of a report in the Sept. 12 issue of Science. In animal studies led by Mochly-Rosen, the enzyme was found to reduce the tissue damage done by unstable oxygen products called free radicals.

That finding helps explain a long-known phenomenon in which moderate drinkers tend to have less severe heart attacks than teetotalers. Alcohol, in small amounts, preconditions the heart to resist damage, but until now, the reason for the preconditioning has been unknown.

The Stanford team screened a large number of compounds to find one that would increase the activity of ALDH2. They called on Hurley for help, because "he has spent his career on this enzyme, he knows a lot about the structure of the enzyme and how it works," Mochly-Rosen said.

Much of the research on ALDH2 has been done in Japan and China, because about 40 percent of Asians carry a variant form of the gene that makes a relatively inactive enzyme, Hurley
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