Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Antioxidant drug reverses process responsible for heart attacks and strokes, according to research

An antioxidant drug reverses atherosclerosis and could be used to prevent heart attacks and strokes due to clots, according to research funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Atherosclerosis is the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries. When a type of fat called LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized and builds up to form plaques in the artery walls, inflammation and damage increase which can cause the plaques to rupture and cause blood to clot. These clots can block vital arteries that allow blood to flow to  the heart, causing a heart attack, or to the brain causing a stroke. Previously, researchers at the University of Reading discovered that LDL cholesterol can be oxidized in acidic small ‘bags’ called lysosomes in immune cells within the artery wall. Now, professor David Leake and his team have found that the antioxidant drug, cysteamine, has the power to switch off, and even reverse, this damaging process. Cysteamine works by accumulating in the lysosomes and stops the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. It is used to treat a rare lysosomal disease called cystinosis. When the researchers looked at mice with atherosclerosis, those treated with cysteamine had a 32 to 56 percent reduction in the size of atherosclerotic plaques depending on the part of the aorta that was examined. Cysteamine decreased the amount of oxidized fat by 73% and increased the stability of the atherosclerotic areas. It decreased the proportion of inflammatory white blood cells by 55% and increased the area made up of smooth muscle cells by 85%, ultimately reducing the chance of plaques rupturing and causing a blood clot. “The potential in this drug to protect against heart attacks and strokes and ultimately save lives superseded our expectations,” said Leake. “We hoped it would cause plaques to grow at a slower pace, but we were amazed to find it reversed the process. Cysteamine would offer an entirely new way of treating atherosclerosis. We now want to look at the most efficient way to give this drug to patients, and hope that it can be taken to clinical trials in the next few years.”



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