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Insect Protein Effective for Treating Heart Enlargement, Arrythmias

Compounds known to play an important role in how insects develop from larvae to adults have been shown in a mouse model for congestive heart failure// to be effective in preventing and reducing cardiac cell overgrowth and irregular heart rhythms, according to UC Davis research published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research, led by cardiologist and cell biologist Nipavan Chiamvimonvat and entomology professor Bruce Hammock, identifies epoxide hydrolase inhibitors as novel and powerful chemical compounds that block an immune system protein (NF-?B) known to play a role in cardiac cell overgrowth and arrhythmias.

The work is important because it identifies a new biochemical target for the development of drugs to treat enlargement of the heart and arrhythmias – conditions that have few treatment options and ultimately progress to heart failure and sudden cardiac death.

”Enlargement of the heart is one of the most common causes of heart failure in the United States,” said Chiamvimonvat. “Once cardiac failure develops, the condition is irreversible and is associated with a very high death rate. Fifty percent of patients whose heart failure has progressed to include shortness of breath without physical activity do not to survive beyond one year. We need a better way to control and prevent enlargement of the heart to improve treatment options for patients and reduce mortality.”

The heart enlarges in response to a variety of internal and external stimuli, including pressure or volume overload; heart attacks leading to loss of muscle mass; mutations of proteins in the heart muscles; and loss of contractile mass from a previous heart attack. Initial enlargement can result in a stronger heart, but continued and sustained heart enlargement is life-threatening.

As the heart becomes enlarged, it also disrupts the electrical signals controlling the heartbeat, causi
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