New Drug Shows Promise in Alleviating Heart Failure

Man Holding a Pill Medicine Drug

A new drug known as AF-130 shows promise for treating heart failure and sleep apnoea by improving the heart’s pumping ability and reducing the ‘fight or flight’ response. Soon to be FDA-approved for another health issue, the drug could pave the way for human trials and improve life expectancy.

A new drug has shown potential for relieving both heart failure and the sleep apnea that often accompanies it.

A new medication demonstrates potential in addressing heart failure, a prevalent condition linked to sleep apnea and shortened life expectancy.

During testing on an animal model at Waipapa Taumata Rau, the University of Auckland researchers discovered that the drug, called AF-130, not only enhances the heart’s pumping capacity but also prevents sleep apnea, which can reduce lifespan.

“This drug does offer benefit for heart failure, but it’s two for the price of one, in that it’s also relieving the apnea for which there is currently no drug, only CPAP (a breathing device), which is poorly tolerated,” says Professor Julian Paton, director of the University’s Manaaki Manawa, Centre for Heart Research.

When a person has a heart attack and subsequent heart failure, the brain responds by activating the sympathetic system, the ‘fight or flight’ response, as a way to stimulate the heart to pump blood. However, the brain persists with this activation of the nervous system, even when it is no longer required, and this together with the consequent sleep apnea contributes to the patient’s reduced life expectancy. Most patients die within five years of a heart failure diagnosis.

“This study has revealed the first drug to temper the nervous activity from the brain to the heart thereby reversing the heart’s progressive decline in heart failure,” says Professor Paton.

The part of the brain that sends nervous impulses to the heart is also controlling respiration, so this drug has a dual function, reducing the ‘fight or flight’ response while also stimulating breathing to stop the sleep apnea. “These findings have real potential for improving the wellness and life expectancy of almost 200,000 people living with heart disease in Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Professor Paton.

Another exciting factor for the scientists, who are from the University of Auckland and the University of São Paulo, Brazil, is that the drug is soon to be FDA approved, albeit for a different health issue, paving the way for human trials in the next year or two, Professor Paton says.

“Over recent decades there have been several classes of drugs that have improved the prognosis of heart failure,” says cardiology consultant and Associate Professor, Martin Stiles. “However, none of these drugs work in the way that this new agent does. So it is exciting to see a novel method that potentially reverses some features of heart failure.”

Reference: “P2X3 receptor antagonism attenuates the progression of heart failure” by Renata M. Lataro, Davi J. A. Moraes, Fabio N. Gava, Ana C. M. Omoto, Carlos A. A. Silva, Fernanda Brognara, Lais Alflen, Vânia Brazão, Rafaela Pravato Colato, José Clóvis do Prado Jr, Anthony P. Ford, Helio C. Salgado, and Julian F. R. Paton, 28 March 2023, Nature Communications.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-37077-9

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