Dec. 19 (UPI) -- A drug commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes could also help repair heart failure, a study says.
Close to half of all heart failure patients have HFpEF, which stiffens the left ventricle of the heart and reduces its ability to fill with blood. In turn, that leads to a lack of blood flow through the body, causing shortness of breath.
A study published Wednesday in the Journal of General Physiology discovered that diabetes drug metformin loosens the heart muscle protein tightened by HFpEF, enabling the heart to properly fill with blood before pushing out to the rest of the body.
Researchers from the University of Arizona were able to relax the left ventricle muscle of lab mice during their research.
HFpEF more commonly affects women with risk factors like hypertension, old age and obesity. However, no current drugs on the market treat the condition.
A 2016 study foiund that more than 8 percent of people over age 65 have HFpEF. Also, nearly half of all heart patients suffer from the condition.
That means people who suffer from HFpEF have little hope for treatment. In fact, people with HFpEF have a "poor" five-year survival rate, according to a 2017 study from the American College of Cardiology.
Now, metformin has brought in new hope for treatment. Researchers say the diabetes drug helps titin recoil after being stretched by adding phosphates that help make it more buoyant and flexible.
"We therefore conclude that metformin is a potential therapy for patients with HFpEF," Henk L. Granzier, a researcher at University of Arizona and study author, said in a news release. "Because the drug is already approved and well tolerated in humans, using it to target titin stiffness presents a unique opportunity for immediate translation to the clinic."