Health Tips

By LIDIA WASOWICZ, UPI Senior Science Writer  |  Nov. 13, 2001 at 4:45 AM
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A drug commonly used for gout may also be of benefit to patients who suffer heart failure, researchers report. The drug works by decreasing the heart muscle's need for energy and increasing the efficiency of its contractions. The drug is allopurinol. When it was injected into the hearts of nine patients with congestive heart failure, it significantly improved the organs' efficiency, researchers said in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association. Heart failure can be compared to a car that's out of tune; the heart still functions, but it's not efficient, the investigators said. In the study, patients treated with allopurinol reduced their energy consumption by 20 percent without decreasing the strength of the contraction of the heart muscle, the investigators said. "Allopurinol represents a novel potential strategy for the treatment of heart failure," said Dr. Joshua Hare, senior study author and director of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine heart failure research program. "It allowed the heart to use less oxygen without any detrimental effects on its function."


Rat studies point to another potential treatment for heart disease. In the experiments, caspase inhibitors. minimized the damage to the heart muscle after the rats suffered a simulated heart attack. When the drug, made by Idun Pharmaceuticals, Inc., was administered after blocked arteries had reopened, it reduced the amount of heart tissue damage and preserved the heart function, the researchers said. These therapeutics work by controlling apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Apoptosis, a cell process that may control many diseases, is a major contributor to heart disease, scientists said. They are now conducting studies with pig models, which more closely resemble the disease in humans, researchers reported at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif. "This work demonstrated in a rat heart attack model that Idun's caspase inhibitors are effective in reducing the damage associated with heart attacks and, further, can be effective even when administered after blocked coronary arteries have been reopened," said Robert Armstrong, director of cell biology at Idun. "Successful drugs designed to reduce damage from a heart attack need to be effective when administered after the blocked coronary blood supply has been re-established by traditional means, such as clot buster drugs (thrombolytics) or balloon angioplasty. Our compound achieves this."


Culminating half a century of research, scientists have discovered a key gene that enables certain bacteria to cause blindness and debilitating genital tract infections. Poring over the genetic blueprint of the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, the scientists found a gene that produces a toxin that destroys cells. The toxin, which was long suspected, helps explain why only some chlamydial strains cause chronic illness, researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The finding may lead to ways to treat or prevent the sexually transmitted diseases caused by chlamydia. "These bacteria cause debilitating illnesses in hundreds of millions of people throughout the world," said Harlan Caldwell of NIAID's Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Mont. "If we could find a toxin that helps the bacteria attack and destroy cells, we would have a major new target for diagnostic tests, vaccines and drugs." Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID, said genome sequencing promises to improve global health. "Determining the DNA sequence of the world's leading infectious microbes is a high priority within NIAID," he said. "This study is one example of how that commitment can provide researchers with a powerful tool for understanding and eventually treating or preventing infectious diseases."


Purple grape juice contains compounds that might help fight bacteria that contribute to urinary tract infections, researchers have found in laboratory tests. The painful infections affect some 10 million Americans each year, most of them women. "It is well accepted that drinking cranberry juice reduces the incidence of urinary tract infection in women," said David Mark, research and development manager of health and nutrition for grape juice maker Welch Foods Inc., which sponsored the study. "This effect is attributed to compounds in the juice called proanthocyanidins. In our in vitro study, the proanthocyanidins from purple grape juice showed similar anti-adhesive qualities as those from cranberry juice." Urinary tract infections occur when E. coli, a common bacterium, adheres to the lining of the bladder, colonizes and infects the bladder and urinary tract. The compounds in the drinks appear to prevent the bacteria from attaching to the bladder, thereby preventing infection.

(EDITORS: For more information about HEART, call 410-955-1534; about DRUG, call 858-623-1330; about CHLAMYDIA, call 301-402-1663; about GRAPE, call 212-477-0472.)

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