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The medicine molidustat is being studied in trials for treating anaemia in people with chronic kidney disease. It has also been found to raise levels of a protein that helps heart cells survive after they are starved of oxygen. People with diabetes have lower levels of the protein, known as Hypoxia- Inducible Factor 1 (HIF), within their heart cells.
Dr Lisa Heather, British Heart Foundation (BHF) intermediate research Fellow at the University of Oxford, said: “Even with optimal management, people with Type 2 diabetes still have a higher risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases.” She added: “They are then more likely than people without diabetes to develop heart failure after a heart attack.
“Despite this, there are no treatments available to help the diabetic heart recover after a heart attack.
“We’re hopeful that we’ve identified a drug that can address this unmet need and improve outcomes for people with diabetes after a heart attack.”
Researchers investigated the effects of molidustat on heart function during lab tests with human heart cells and hearts from rats.
They found that diabetic hearts were worse affected by a period of low oxygen than healthy hearts were.
But when treated with the drug their function recovered back to the level of those without diabetes. The study suggested the drug may also aid the growth of new blood vessels, which could stave off heart failure.
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Prof Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the BHF which funded the research, said: “Heart and circulatory diseases are the leading cause of death in people with diabetes, a condition which affects nearly five million people in the UK.”
He continued: “These promising results suggest that drugs which stabilise HIF could become a new treatment to reduce the risk of heart failure after a heart attack in people with diabetes.
“Further research is now needed to translate these early stage findings into clinical benefit.”
The findings from the research have been published in the monthly medical journal Diabetes.
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