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New class of compounds promises to revive failing hearts

Half a million Americans are diagnosed each year with heart failure, a progressively debilitating condition characterized by the heart's declining ability to pump blood efficiently. The condition causes about 50,000 deaths annually and accounts for 1 million hospitalizations more than for all forms of cancer combined.

Since the 1980s, nitroglycerin and other medications that release nitric oxide (NO) into the bloodstream have been the usual approach to treating this condition. Though these drugs benefit the ailing heart by improving its ability to relax, they also have a negative flipside: they leave the heart with a diminished capacity for pumping.

Hoping to improve on that formula, researchers at The Johns Hopkins University have developed a new class of NO-based compounds called nitroxyl (HNO) precursors that produce HNO. In early studies, these compounds seem to play a role in protecting the cardiovascular system from further damage during heart failure and in restoring function to organs affected by the debilitating condition. Scientists will announce their results in late August at the American Chemical Society's annual summer meeting, held this year in Philadelphia.

"Our results are preliminary, but very promising," said John P. Toscano, professor in the Chemistry Department in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins. "Our goal is not only to develop new classes of nitroxyl precursors, but also to figure out the mechanisms by which they seem to affect heart function. This has the potential to lead to alternative treatments for cardiac failure in humans. But we are still in the very early testing stage."

Toscano's research partner, Nazareno Paolocci, assistant professor in the Department of Cardiology at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, administered normal, conscious dogs and those with heart failure with a compound called Angeli's salt, which generates HNO. It turned out that this treatment do
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Contact: Lisa DeNike
lde@jhu.edu
443-287-9960
Johns Hopkins University
22-Aug-2004


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