AUSTRALIAN researchers have developed a potentially safer and more effective way to treat heart attack and stroke via a new clot-busting drug, with the National Heart Foundation of Australia saying it could save many lives.
The research lead by Dr Christoph Hagemeyer, Head of the Vascular Biotechnology Laboratory at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute was published today in the US journal Circulation Research.
Dr Hagemeyer said while clot-busting drugs are not new, this novel targeted drug can offer a safer alternative with fewer side effects for people suffering a heart attack or stroke. Most importantly, it offers hope for patients who currently miss out on the available drugs because of their associated risks.
“The current clot-busting drugs are already effective, but they have adverse effects and can be very dangerous for some people,” Dr Hagemeyer said.
“Currently many patients, particularly older people or people taking certain medications, are excluded from receiving a clot-busting drug, because of the high risk of bleeding.
“This new drug targets the site of the clot, not the whole circulatory system, which allows the drug to be given at a low dose. But it’s also very effective at delivering a high concentration directly at the clot site, without increasing the side effects such as bleeding.
“Our discovery means, that when this new drug is fully developed all patients will be able to be treated more safely and more people will be eligible for this life-saving treatment.”
Dr Hagemeyer added that the project has been eight years in the making, and the next step is to seek funding for clinical trials.
Around 55,000 Australians have a heart attack and 50,000 suffer a stroke every year.
The research was funded by the National Heart Foundation of Australia, National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Research Council (ARC). Dr Hagemeyer is also half way through a four-year Heart Foundation Research Fellowship to support his work.
Heart Foundation’s Chief Medical Adviser, Professor James Tatoulis said the high risk of bleeding and side effects of the current clot busting drugs is well known, so this research is a real breakthrough in developing a safer and more targeted drug.
“When a person suffers an acute heart attack, the coronary artery suddenly becomes completely blocked by a blood clot and the muscle starts to die,” Prof Tatoulis said.
“When someone has a heart attack or stroke they need medical treatment quickly to clear the blockage, and a clot-busting drug provides a quick and relatively simple solution.”
Prof Tatoulis added that with a large country like Australia the risk of dying increases the more isolated a person is, but to have a drug like this available in ambulances would provide a safe first treatment before the person arrives at a hospital.
“Restoring blood flow to the heart quickly is critical to their survival and best chance at a quality life. If blood flow is restored to the heart within 90 minutes of symptom onset, the size of permanent heart muscle damage can be reduced by almost half compared with after six hours of onset of symptoms,” he said.
“In cities, it’s a relatively short trip to hospital for treatment to clear blockages in arteries, but, if you live in the country, it could be hours to the closest hospital for such treatment.
“Some states and territories already have equipped their ambulances to deliver currently-available clot-busting drugs, but this new drug provides a much safer option, with fewer side effects.”
Source: The Heart Foundation