Drug developed at Ohio State shows promise in stopping heart failure progression

Woman being examined by a doctor

Heart failure is a serious condition, most often caused by high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. It affects about 6 million Americans — many of whom will go on to need a heart transplant. The bad news is that currently there’s no treatment to stop progression of heart failure, which causes chronic inflammation.

The good news is that researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and the Ohio State College of Medicine have developed a novel drug that shows promise in stopping heart failure progression.

“This is a major finding since we have not had a new drug developed for heart failure in the last several years. About half of heart failure patients die within the first five years of their diagnosis. This novel treatment addresses one of the underlying mechanisms of the disease. With this drug, we may be able to significantly improve the lifespan of patients, and if we stop the disease at an early stage, patients may not even need a heart transplant,” says Shyam Bansal, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology and a researcher at the Dorothy M. Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute.

During heart failure, T-cells, which are part of the immune system, go from protecting the body from infection to causing heart failure to progress. In a study of heart failure in mice, Ohio State researchers found these “bad” T-cells have increased levels of a protein called estrogen receptor alpha. With the help of the Drug Development Institute, which is part of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, researchers identified and tested a new drug molecule that activates estrogen receptor beta, which is known to have an opposite effect of estrogen receptor alpha. The novel treatment stopped progression of heart failure.

“We know inflammation plays an important role in worsening symptoms of heart failure, but we have not been able to identify suitable treatments that can target ‘bad’ inflammation without affecting ‘good’ inflammation. With this drug, we can selectively target bad T-cells and stop the disease from getting worse,” Dr. Bansal says.

Research results were published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

Ohio State has patented the drug molecule OSU-ERb-012 and plans to determine the effectiveness of the drug in other animal trials, identify the lowest therapeutic dose and eventually conduct clinical trials in human heart failure patients.

The research is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Ohio State’s Drug Development Institute, and researchers recently received an accelerator award from the Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship. The studies were mostly conducted by Rachel Rosenzweig and Vinay Kumar under the supervision of Dr. Bansal.

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