Patients recovering from a heart attack might have a better chance of recovering if they take a drug to treat some cancers, new research shows.
According to a study funded by the British Heart Foundation, the drug may reduce the risk of another seizure and help the heart heal.
A low dose of the drug known as aldesleukin, injected under the skin of people who have had an acute heart attack, increased the activation of immune cells that have been shown to protect the heart.
The drug has been specifically shown to activate a rare white blood cell called congenital type 2 lymphocytes (ILC2).
Previous research has shown that this cell may be able to reduce the harmful inflammation that promotes the formation of fatty deposits in the arteries.
The experts examined mice that were unable to produce ILC2 and found that their hearts were less able to recover after a heart attack.
Mice that could produce the cells had reduced heart scarring and better heart function after a heart attack.
By targeting the inflammation caused by the body’s immune response to a heart attack, the researchers also hope to prevent the dangerous feedback loop that can increase the likelihood of a second heart attack.
Dr. Tian Zhao, BHF Clinical Lecturer in Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Cambridge, said, “Right now there is no way to prevent the immune system that is activated after a heart attack from mistakenly damaging the heart.
“If our clinical study shows that aldesleukin works the same way in humans as it does in mice, using the ‘good cops’ of our immune system, we may have found a way to heal the heart after a heart attack.”
Professor Metin Avkiran, Deputy Medical Director of the BHF, said: “Every five minutes someone is admitted to a UK hospital with a heart attack.
“Thanks to research, heart attacks are now treatable and seven out of ten people will survive. However, many heart attack survivors will still be left with damaged hearts.
“This research shows a new approach that has the potential to both heal heart attack damaged hearts and reduce the risk of another heart attack.
“If clinical trial results confirm these early research findings, drugs that activate ILC2 could revolutionize the treatment of heart attacks.”
The researchers are now monitoring patients who have been given aldesleukin after a heart attack in phase II clinical trials.
They hope that more positive results will lead to larger studies and eventually a new treatment for heart attacks.
– The results will be published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC).