LONDON, July 15 (UPI) -- A drug used to mute the immune system in transplant patients to prevent the rejection of a new organ may also help repair damage after a heart attack.
Following a heart attack, a mixture of chemicals and cells rush back into the organ after removal of the blockage that caused the attack. These chemicals and cells cause additional damage, which researchers believe can be limited with the transplant drug.
"Our research investigates exactly how we can target heart damage after a heart attack, and suggests drugs that could help," said Ioakim Spyridopoulos, a professor of cardiovascular gerontology at Newcastle University, in a press release. "The beauty of this research is that we have used our new understanding of what happens inside the heart to help identify a potential drug that is already in use. If successful, heart attack patients could see the benefit of the study within a few years."
A heart attack causes damage when a clot prevents blood from reaching the heart. Researchers think some of the damage during and after a heart attack is caused by white blood cells called T-lymphocytes being activated during the health event. When the cells enter the organ, they release chemicals meant to kill off invading infections that instead harm parts of the heart.
Researchers are currently planning a clinical trial, which they said could be mounted more quickly because the anti-rejection drug they plan to test, cyclosporin, is already approved as safe for humans and widely used with transplant patients.
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.