A drug already approved to treat multiple sclerosis may also hold promise for treating cardiac hypertrophy, or thickening of the cardiac muscle-a disorder that often leads to heart failure, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine report.
Using an experimental mouse model of cardiac hypertrophy, Solaro and his team found that FTY-720 (Fingolimod, see structure) significantly reduced heart mass; lessened fibrosis, or stiffening of the heart muscle; and improved overall cardiac function in the mice that received the drug.
The researchers also showed that the drug inhibits expression of several genes involved in cardiac hypertrophy.
"We saw that FTY-720 blocked the activity of a protein we know is involved in causing heart-cell thickening," said Solaro. When that protein is blocked, he said, collagen and other proteins involved in heart-cell thickening are also down-regulated.
Collagen, a fibrous protein found between heart cells, causes the heart muscle to become stiff. Collagen is often overabundant in people with cardiac hypertrophy.
"When the heart muscle is stiff, it actually takes effort to relax the heart and allow blood to flow into the ventricles, so this is another way this disease causes the heart to work harder than it should have to," Solaro said.
"FTY-720 is a potential therapy to treat this disease and prevent heart failure for people where the disease is acquired through high blood pressure, and possibly inherited hypertrophy as well," he said.