Wednesday 17 January 2018

A single injection able to repair a damaged heart, groundbreaking Irish research reveals

Professor Noel Caplice, left, with John Nolan, a participant in the trial, and his wife Margaret Photo: Clare Keogh
Professor Noel Caplice, left, with John Nolan, a participant in the trial, and his wife Margaret Photo: Clare Keogh
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A single injection has the capacity to repair damaged hearts, Irish scientists have discovered after the first trial of its kind in the world.

The research team discovered that injecting an insulin-like growth factor into damaged heart muscle offers astonishing results for cardiac patients.

It was led by University College Cork Professor Noel Caplice and his Cork University Hospital team.

The Resus-AMI trial, which was backed by a €1m grant under the Translational Research Award programme, involved 47 Irish patients who had suffered large-scale cardiac problems and heart muscle damage.

"We are delighted that an important human study like this could be funded in Ireland and performed in Cork," Prof Caplice said.

"This pilot trial is the first of its kind worldwide showing that a single injection of low dose IGF1 is safe and can improve cardiac repair after a large heart attack. We hope that these findings can be replicated in potentially larger trials of many hundreds of subjects in the future.

"A significant minority of our patients currently remain unwell after a large heart attack despite best clinical practice and we are excited by the possibility that cardiac repair therapy may help these patients."

It is estimated that 20pc of people who suffer heart attacks endure ongoing difficulties because of severe damage inflicted to their heart muscle.

Despite the most advanced cardiac care and treatments, this can often result in patients developing long-term cardiac failure.

Under the Cork trial, patients received two different low dose preparations of insulin-like growth factor, or a placebo, in a randomised double blinded clinical trial.

The results indicated that those who received the higher dose growth factor had improved remodelling of their heart muscle in the two-month follow-up after their heart attack.

This was also borne out by other measures of improved heart performance.

Prof Caplice said the results were encouraging.

"If future bigger trials are successful, the growth factor could be applied more widely to improve the quality of life and life expectancy of any patient who has suffered a large heart attack, and be financially beneficial to the health service by reducing ongoing care costs," he said.

One of the trial patients was John Nolan from New Ross, Co Wexford, who suffered a serious heart attack in December 2014.

"I feel I was blessed to be asked to be involved," he said. "I had confidence that good would come from it, in terms of how they explained it to me. Looking back on it now, I feel it was the right choice."

His wife Margaret, a nurse, said they were very thankful for the trial.

"Even as a nurse, I felt very vulnerable at the thought that my husband could have died," she said.

"I speak on behalf of myself and my children - I'm really grateful for the aftercare and attention John received as a result of being on this trial."

Irish Independent

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