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Heart drug offers possible treatment for patients facing respiratory failure
Date:9/22/2011

Treatment with the calcium-sensitizing drug levosimendan may be effective in improving muscle function in patients with respiratory muscle weakness, which often accompanies chronic diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure, according to researchers in the Netherlands, who studied the effects of the drug on healthy volunteers. The drug, which is normally prescribed in patients with acute heart failure,increases the sensitivity of muscle tissue to calcium, improving the muscle'sability to contract.

The findings were published online ahead of the print edition of the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"We found that the calcium sensitizer levosimendan improves the mechanical efficiency ofthe human diaphragm, suggesting a new, therapeutic approach to improve respiratory muscle function in patients with respiratory failure," said Leo Heunks, M.D. PhD, who is a pulmonary and critical care physician at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre inNijmegen, the Netherlands.

"Respiratory muscle weakness frequently occurs in patients with chronic diseases, and also in critically ill patients on the ventilator, making breathing more difficult and causing more severe illness and even death," Dr. Heunks added. "To date, there is no specific drug treatment available to improve respiratory muscle function in patients with respiratory muscle failure."

Calcium is a necessary element in muscle contraction, and calcium sensitizers like levosimendan improve muscle tissue's ability to contract by making them especially sensitive to the effects of calcium. In vitro studies have demonstrated calcium sensitizers improve the function of the respiratory muscles, and results of animal studies have shown calcium sensitivity is reduced in specific chronic illness settings. A recent in vitro study of diaphragm muscle tissue taken from COPD patients
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Contact: Brian Kell
bkell@thoracic.org
212-315-6442
American Thoracic Society
Source:Eurekalert

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