Published in the March 9 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study establishes a firm link between a family of stress hormones called urocortins and heart disease, and may lead to new treatments for heart failure. Congestive heart fa
ilure is an increasingly common condition among Americans, currently contributing to the deaths of more than 250,000 people annually. The ailment is marked by an impairment of heart muscle function, which eventually leads to a loss in the ability of the heart to pump blood. The known causes of congestive heart failure are multiple, and can be either acquired or inherited. In some individuals, the cause is unknown.
Wylie W. Vale, Helene MacLoraine Professor of Molecular Neurobiology at the Salk, Dr. Kirk L. Peterson, UCSD Edith and William Perlman Professor of Clinical Cardiology, and their colleagues found that a specific member of the urocortin family of proteins, called urocortin II, administered intravenously in a small dose, significantly enhanced heart muscle cell contractions in mice. The hormone bound to a receptor molecule called CRF2 on muscle cells. Mice bred specifically to lack the CRF2 receptor showed no response to urocortin II and higher than normal blood pressure
In addition, mice that were bred to exhibit a form of congestive heart failure were found to have a dramatic improvement in their cardiovascular function when treated with urocortin II.
"We hope that this study expands our understanding of the potent actions of urocortin II in cardiovascular physiology and points to a precise targeting of the CRF2 receptor for improved treatment of heart diseases," Vale s
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