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Pacemakers can actually change heart, not just assist it:
FRIDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- In dogs with damaged hearts, implanted pacemakers triggered fast improvements in tissue levels and the activity of a number of proteins crucial to heart health, says a Johns Hopkins study.

The researchers said their findings are believed to be the first detailed chemical analysis of the biological effects a pacemaker has on the heart. This new information could lead to improvements in the use of combined pacemaker/drug treatments for congestive heart failure patients.

"We are learning that pacemaker therapy does profoundly more than just mechanically correct how the heart beats; in fact, it produces major chemical changes that benefit the muscle," lead investigator Khalid Chakir, a postdoctoral cardiology research fellow at Hopkins, said in a prepared statement.

In this study, Chakir and colleagues induced "wobbly, discoordinated contraction" in the hearts of 22 dogs. In half the dogs, this asymmetric heart failure was allowed to take its natural course. The other dogs received a cardiac pacemaker.

Tissue analysis found major changes in the production or activity levels of 17 proteins known to be involved with heart cell stress, survival and death. These changes were especially notable in the dogs that didn't have their hearts "retuned" by a pacemaker.

In the dogs that did receive a pacemaker, the tissue levels and activity of these proteins were restored toward normal. The findings were published online in Circulation.

"Our results really help explain how pacemakers act much like a drug, actually changing the biology of the heart, and also explain why people can feel so much better after just two to six months with the device," study senior investigator Dr. David Kass, a cardiologist and professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart Institute, said in a prepared statement.

Each year in the United States, more than a million people are diagnosed with congestive heart failure, in which the heart weakens and isn't able to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. About 25 percent of congestive heart failure patients suffer from non-uniform heart contraction, which requires implantation of a pacemaker to restore normal heartbeat, according to background information in a news release about the study.

Pacemakers can help extend people's lives for month or years or help them return to normal daily activities. It had been believed that pacemakers simply provided a mechanical solution for heartbeat malfunction.

"Now that we have found that resynchronization is doing more fundamental things to the heart muscle, we should be able to better combine these devices with drugs to maximize long-term survival and outcomes," Kass said.

Curcumin may help, too.

Date: 2008-03-24 05:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] crustycurmudgeo.livejournal.com
Turmeric Compound Repairs Heart, Reduces Risk
Gaurang Shah Volume: 48 (29/02/2008)

A study by Canadian researchers suggests that a common ingredient of curry might provide good benefits for the heart. The researchers found that curcumin, a compound found in the spice turmeric, can bring an enlarged heart back to comparatively normal size and also lower the risk of heart failure. Findings of the study have been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

When the heart gets damaged due to a heart attack or disease, it gradually loses its ability to pump blood across the body. This leads to heart failure, a condition that proves to be fatal for 40% of patients within a year of onset. Its symptoms include tiredness, swollen ankles and breathlessness.

While medications are available to control heart failure, the scarring and damage suffered by heart muscles is irreversible and can not be repaired. Researchers led by Dr. Peter Liu at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre of the Toronto General Hospital have found that turmeric however possess the ability to repair this damage.

When the scientists tested curcumin on laboratory mice that had enlarged hearts (hypertrophy), they found that the compound did not just arrest and reverse the condition but also restored heart function and cut down scar formation. While the tests were conducted on mice, the researchers are hopeful of achieving similar success with human hearts. If successful, the researchers believe their findings might pave the path for new safer and inexpensive curcumin-based treatments for patients with heart enlargement.

The researchers are not sure about the exact working of curcumin but believe it might be on account of the compound switching off the genes that cause the heart to become enlarged and scarred. According to the researchers, curcumin works directly in the cell nucleus by preventing abnormal unravelling of the chromosome under stress. This in turn prevents excessive abnormal protein production.

“Curcumin’s ability to shut off one of the major switches right at the chromosome source where the enlargement and scarring genes are being turned on is impressive,” said Dr. Liu, a cardiologist at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and scientific director at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health.

“Whether you are young or old; male or female; the larger your heart is, the higher your risk is for developing heart attacks or heart failure in the future,” Dr. Liu said. “However, until clinical trials are done, we don’t recommend patients to take curcumin routinely. You are better off to take action today by lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol, exercising, and health eating.”



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