Preclinical research at the University of Arizona College of Medicine—Phoenix reveals that Aliskren, a drug that inhibits the enzyme that regulates blood pressure, can delay the progression of congestive heart failure and lengthen survival rates. The team also develops a method to measure edema longitudinally throughout disease progression.
The Problem: Heart Failure
About 5.7 million Americans live with congestive heart failure, a chronic and progressive condition occurring when the heart muscle fails to pump blood as well as it should. In 2015, over 40 million experienced this condition worldwide. The cost to society, according to CDC is over $30 billion annually.
The Preclinical Study
The Cardiovascular Disease Research group from the University of Arizona College of Medicine—Phoenix Department of Internal Medicine used a new technology to evaluate changes in muscle mass and fluid retention over time in heart failure. Using this noninvasive technology, the Arizona-based investigators showed that an FDA approved drug called Aliskiren blocked muscle loss, prevented fluid retention and saved lives.
Based on the research findings the Arizona team believes that Aliskiren has the potential to not only extend the lives of those with heart failure, but also bolster their quality of life.
The team’s results were published in a study titled “Normalizing Plasma Renin Activity in Experimental Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Effects on Edema, Cachexia, and Survival,” published in the August 2019 edition of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, as part of a Special Issue Heart Failure: From Molecular Basis to Therapy.
The New Technology & A Patent Application
In addition to observations of the FDA approved drug, the team’s breakthrough centered on the identification of a technology known as QMR (quantitative magnetic resonance) as a method to objectively measure edema development longitudinally throughout the disease progression. The Arizona team developed a device as well that captures the changes in body fat and lean muscle mass, which are associated with prognosis in heart failure patients. As declared in the University of Arizona press release, the technology introduces potential applications in monitoring and adjusting individual treatment protocols as they leverage precision medicine methods for clinical heart failure patients. University of Arizona and the lead authors have filed a patent.
Lead Author Comments on Study Results
Ryan Sullivan, DVM, assistant professor in the college’s Department of Internal Medicine and study lead noted “This FDA-approved drug has the potential to improve the quality and extend the life in properly identified heart failure patients.” He continued “That’s an extra 5.6 years with loved ones that otherwise would not be possible.” Sullivan acknowledges that there is a need for further studies as well as clinical trials.
The Drug: Aliskiren
Co-developed by Novartis and Speedel, the drug Aliskiren is the first in a class of drugs called direct renin inhibitors, used for essential (primary) hypertension. The drug sponsor Novartis did halt a trial in December 2011 with the drug after discovering an increase in nonfatal stroke, kidney complications and high blood potassium, and low blood pressure in patients with diabetes and kidney issues. Consequently Novartis added new contraindication as well as additions to the warning label.
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