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Targeting flight-or-fight hormone response to combat heart failure
Date:6/24/2010

We've all experienced the strong heartbeat that accompanies emotions such as fear and rage. But can the body's natural response to these emotions be used to combat heart failure? Results of a study published online today in the journal Circulation Research present a strong case.

In the study, scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that two experimental drugs have the potential to restore pumping strength to failing hearts in part by harnessing the fight-or-flight response that makes hearts beat stronger.

At the center of this finding is the hormone adrenalin, which normally maintains the heart's pumping strength and makes the heart beat with greater force during crisis. The newly identified drugs ensure that adrenalin's ability to drive heartbeat strength is maintained, and not thwarted, as it typically is in heart failure patients. The two therapies, when tested in human-like mouse models of heart failure, were found to slow, and in some cases halt, the progression of the disease.

"Considering the limited efficacy of current drug therapies for heart failure, this discovery is both exciting and promising," said Burns C. Blaxall, Ph.D., associate professor within the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Medical Center, and senior author of the study. "We are now taking a closer look at how these compounds compare to standard heart failure therapies, such as beta blockers, to further determine their efficacy in treating the disease."

When the heart stops pumping as effectively as it should, the body responds by sending more adrenalin to give the heart a pick-me-up. While increased adrenalin initially restores the heart's vitality, over time heart muscle cells become less and less responsive to high levels of adrenalin, triggering the body to pump even more of the hormone to the heart. Elevated adrenalin is a hallmark of heart failure, and a recent study linked anxiety which inc
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Contact: Emily Butler
emily_butler@urmc.rochester.edu
585-273-1757
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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