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Researchers are treating the heart directly with enzymes to prevent cellular damage

Medical research covers a broad spectrum with the search for cures and treatments for a growing number of diseases and other conditions being undertaken by scientists and researchers around the globe. Many of the treatments involve some exotic and revolutionary uses for nanomedicine and other high tech treatments.

Researchers announced last week that they were using nano-sized micelles to treat spinal cord injury with impressive restoration of coordinated limb movement in injured lab rats that would leave them paralyzed without treatment. Researchers at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology today announced that they have developed microscopic polymer beads that are capable of delivering an antioxidant enzyme directly to the heart. When mice in lab tests were treated with the beads after a simulated heart attack, the number of dying cells was reduced resulting in improved heart function days later.

The specific enzyme used is called superoxide dismutase (SOD) and it is able to soak up toxic free radicals produced when cells don't receive the blood they need to survive during a heart attack. The researchers have tried previously using SOD injected alone into the body to no avail.

Researcher Michael Davis, PhD said, "Our goal is to have a therapy to blunt the permanent damage of a heart attack and reduce the probability of heart failure later in life. This is a way to get extra amounts of a beneficial antioxidant protein to the cells that need it."

The tiny polymer particles are created with a material called polyketals developed by professor Niren Murthy PhD at the Georgia Institute of Technology.  The polyketals encapsulate the enzyme and are then taken up by the cells within the heart where the enzyme is slowly released. Once empty the microparticles break down in the body into nontoxic components. The same polyketal microparticles have also been used by Davis and his team to encapsulate anti-inflammatory drugs.

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By jimhsu on 11/16/2009 1:46:57 PM , Rating: 2
Isn't superoxide dismutase an ubiquitous enzyme with ridiculously high efficiency found in every cell? Strange that more of it can help...

By domski on 11/16/2009 4:16:10 PM , Rating: 2
There are lots of chemicals that occur naturally in your body which appear to provide health benefits when present in greater amounts. So one wonders why we didn't evolve to regulate these to higher concentrations. There turns out to be a negative consequence in most cases.

In the case of SOD, my guess (and this isn't my speciality) would be that by decreasing the availability/half-life of superoxide radicals, high concentrations of SOD would compromise the ability of your body to resist infection. Immune cells produce superoxide locally to kill microbes, so elevated SOD would 'deactivate' their ability to combat infection.

In the event of an MI, the diminished response to infection is presumably outweighed by the benefit of decreasing the acute tissue damage due to hypoxia. But you wouldn't want to maintain elevated SOD levels. And indeed, this new therapy would probably be contraindicated in the case of frank infections like sepsis or myocarditis.

By jimhsu on 11/16/2009 8:21:13 PM , Rating: 2
True. You would imagine a pathway might exist that elevates SOD in response to MI would be beneficial. Then again, MI has only recently become a strong selecting force (as in the few hundred years) only because we've improved diet, sanitation, etc. Or that the pathway may have chronic side effects in the absence of MI.

Just goes to show that evolution does not necessarily select for the "most favorable" trait, if such trait can even be defined.

By jimhsu on 11/16/2009 8:24:51 PM , Rating: 2
PS Oh yea, one thing has always bugged me. Why have we lost the ability to synthesize Vitamin C (by the enzyme L-gulonolactone oxidase)? Scurvy was and remains a serious problem in parts of the world, while no studies so far have conclusively shown that large doses of Vitamin C have any real harm (correct me if I'm wrong).

By bennyg on 11/16/2009 9:15:10 PM , Rating: 2
...cuz maybe most of the time we've been evolving we've been stuffing ourselves on fruit & veg meaning an adequate dietary intake of lots of things such as Vit C. So perhaps being able to manufacture it did not confer a selective advantage.

Stupidly sweetened and chunkless fruit juice and "Your Eleventy Daily Serves of Veg All In One Easy To Swallow Tablet" perhaps aren't satisfying dietary needs these days.

Large daily doses of Vit C (we're talking many grams here) give you the runs once, called "bowel tolerance". How terrible a side-effect. Of course there may be problems if the other nutrients in your antioxidant biochemistry are deficient (Vit A&E, CoQ10, etc) as oxidised intermediates may build up. That's why it's called a *Balanced* diet, not the odd nutrient in megadose.

Red blood mineral assay.
By ipay on 11/16/2009 1:52:36 PM , Rating: 2
There is overwhelming evidence that heart attacks are caused by crappy diet causing malnutrition. People are having health problems because they need some simple minerals like magnesium and calcium. Its all in the medical journals, but malnutrition as a root cause of disease doesn't pay the research companies bills. There are too many Bernie Madhoff types in medicine - THATS whay so many people are sick in this country.

RE: Red blood mineral assay.
By Drag0nFire on 11/16/2009 3:15:02 PM , Rating: 1
You, sir, are misinformed. Heart disease is an epidemic facing our country, and is more closely related to obesity than malnutrition. This important (scholarly) research may eventually turn into a breakthrough treatment that will save lives.

If you think this is just lining the pockets of drug companies, wait until someone you know suffers a heart attack.

RE: Red blood mineral assay.
By bennyg on 11/16/2009 9:05:16 PM , Rating: 2
Obesity is everything to do with malnutrition. They are too closely intertwined to figure out which is the fried processed chicken and which is the fried powdered egg.

boom boom.

RE: Red blood mineral assay.
By MrBlastman on 11/16/2009 4:07:59 PM , Rating: 2
Sadly you are very right. It is ourselves that are to blame for the heart attacks and our poor diets we partake in. The hard thing is, these poor diets are what tastes good to us and in order to properly utilize them, we would have to exercise while eating these diets to balance them out.

Most of us in America... don't exercise enough to create this offset. As I'm typing this right now, I am even guilty as of the last few weeks of not exercising enough.

This enzyme though, if it can help save lives, I'm all for it. Nobody wants to go through the experience of having their sternum cracked open. Trust me. It is extremely painful.

RE: Red blood mineral assay.
By jrollins on 11/17/2009 9:15:13 AM , Rating: 2
It is ourselves that are to blame for the heart attacks and our poor diets we partake in.

What about genetic heart problems?

By ChiefsLead on 11/16/2009 2:26:31 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder if this could be given prior to a heart attack. Maybe if someone had the warnig signs of an impending heart attack this treatmet might prevent the heart attack or at least buy time to get adequate medical attention to prevent the heart attack.

RE: preventative
By highlandsun on 11/17/2009 10:45:03 PM , Rating: 2
I would think there's a much more obvious solution then - heart attack means the heart muscle is no longer getting the oxygen it needs, so hyperoxygenate the blood. Get more delivered out of the tiny amount that circulates.

Then there's the longer term treatment of actually removing the plaque and crud that's preventing the bllod from flowing freely...

RE: preventative
By mindless1 on 11/18/2009 12:59:39 AM , Rating: 2
No, what it does is decrease the damage caused by a heart attack and in doing so, keeps the heart stronger so it is not degenerating more and more with each subsequent heart attack.

So yes it does help prior to a heart attack but only to reduce damage from the last one. Giving everyone preemptive medicines isn't a good idea, where would it end?

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