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What causes heart failure among most heart attack survivors? Study reveals


In a crucial discovery regarding cardiovascular ailments, a recent study found iron drives the formation of fatty tissue in the heart and leads to chronic heart failure in about fifty percent of heart attack survivors. The lead author of the study, Rohan Dharmakumar, PhD, of Indiana University School of Medicine, notes, “For the first time, we have identified a root cause of chronic heart failure following a heart attack.”

The findings, which has published in Nature Communications, can help in modifying the treatments that have the potential to prevent heart failure in many millions more worldwide.

Elaborating further, Dharmakumar told Indiana University School of Medicine’s publication “It found that in heart attacks that result in bleeding within the heart muscle—which is about half of them—scar tissue is slowly replaced by fat. Fatty tissue can’t push blood from the heart effectively, and this is what leads to heart failure and eventually to death in many survivors of hemorrhagic heart attacks.”

Using noninvasive imaging, histology and molecular biology techniques, and various other technologies, we have shown that iron from red blood cells is what drives this process,” he explained. “When we removed the iron, we reduced the amount of fat in the heart muscle. This finding establishes a pathway for clinical investigations to remedy or mitigate the effects associated with iron in hemorrhagic myocardial infarction patients.”

The multi-million-dollar study, which involved collaborators from institutions in the United States and Canada, followed large animal models over six months.

“While advances across populations have made survival after a heart attack possible for most, too many survivors suffer long-term complications like heart failure,” said Subha Raman, MD, who is physician director of the Cardiovascular Institute and further notes that the breakthrough study illuminates who is at risk and why and points to an effective way to prevent these complications.

The team is currently testing iron chelation therapy to do just that in a just-launched clinical trial. 

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