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Beta blockers: age-old and cheap medication reduces the extent of a heart attack

Beta blockers: age-old and cheap medication reduces the extent of a heart attack


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Beta blocker metoprolol: drug of great advantage in heart attack
Around 300,000 people in Germany suffer a heart attack each year. In acute cases, quick action is necessary to save lives and avoid consequential damage. Spanish researchers have now found that a particular beta blocker can be of great benefit to infarct patients. The drug reduces the size of a heart attack if given early.

Drug can reduce the size of a heart attack
Beta blockers are drugs that slow the heartbeat and thus lower blood pressure. Such drugs are therefore mainly used for high blood pressure. However, cardiac diseases such as heart muscle weakness (heart failure), coronary heart disease (CAD) and cardiac arrhythmias are also partially treated with it. And people who have had a heart attack are also given such medications to relieve the heart. Researchers from Spain have now found that a certain beta-blocker can help reduce the size of an infarction in acute cases.

Beta blockers inhibit the inflammatory effects of neutrophils
Scientists at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (CNIC) in Madrid have discovered a new mechanism of action for metoprolol, a drug that can reduce the damage caused by a heart attack if administered early.

The team of Dr. Borja Ibáñez, clinical research director at CNIC and cardiologist at Universitario Fundación Jiménez Díaz de Madrid (IIS-FJD) hospital, has identified the mechanism that explains why this drug is so beneficial.

According to a statement from the research center, the rapid administration of metoprolol in a heart attack inhibits the inflammatory effects of neutrophils.

This leads to a smaller part of the heart being damaged. The researchers have published their new findings in the journal "Nature Communications". The discovery “opens the way to new applications for this cheap, safe, and simple drug,” the release said.

Permanent damage after a heart attack
Neutrophils are white blood cells that cause inflammation in the affected tissue after a heart attack and can thus cause permanent damage.

"With an infarction" is, according to Dr. Ibáñez “the most important thing to restore blood flow as quickly as possible.” However, this process, known as reperfusion, can cause further permanent damage to the heart, because the blood flow to many damaged, but still viable cardiac muscle cells causes the fatal blow becomes.

Such additional damage from blood flow restoration (also known as reperfusion damage) was considered a necessary evil, according to the researchers, because it is necessary to clear the coronary artery as soon as possible.

The scientists found that the early administration of metoprolol protects the heart by acting directly on neutrophils.

"Metoprolol anesthetizes the neutrophils, changes their behavior and limits their damaging inflammatory effects to the heart muscle," said study author Jaime García-Prieto.

Cheap medication in use for over three decades
According to Andrés Hidalgo of the CNIC, neutrophil tissue invasion is closely linked to its interaction with platelets (platelets).

"Metoprolol blocks these interactions and the number of neutrophils that arrive in the infarct tissue drastically," said the expert.

Dr. Ibañez concluded that "the priority after a heart attack is restoring blood flow as quickly as possible, but we need to prepare the heart for it by giving metoprolol."

As the research center said, it took seven years for the team to find out why therapy with metoprolol is so important. A drug that has been reported to have been used for over 30 years and costs less than two euros per dose. (ad)

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