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The damage to cardiac cells after a heart failure can be undone by allowing the heart to rest, according to new study. Findings from an Imperial College London study in rats show that the condition's effects on heart muscle cells are not permanent, as has generally been thought. The discovery could open the door to new treatment strategies.
Heart failure means the heart muscle is too weak or stiff to pump blood as effectively as it needs to, and it is commonly the result of a heart attack. Around 750,000 people in the UK alone are living with heart failure. Severe heart failure carries a risk of death within one year which is worse than most cancers, and new heart failure treatments are badly needed, the European Journal of Heart Failure reported. Patients with advanced heart failure are sometimes fitted with a left ventricle assist device (LVAD). The LVAD is a small pump that boosts the function of the heart and reduces strain on the left ventricle, the biggest chamber of the heart, which pumps blood around the body's main circulation.
In 2006, researchers at Imperial led by professor Magdi Yacoub, showed that resting the heart using an LVAD fitted for a limited time can help the heart muscle recover, according to a university statement. The Imperial researchers studied the changes that occur in heart muscle cells during heart failure in rats, and whether "unloading" the heart can reverse these changes. "If you injure a muscle in your leg, you rest it and this allows it to recover," said Cesare Terracciano, from the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) at Imperial, who supervised the study.
"The heart can't afford to rest - it has to keep beating continuously. LVADs reduce the load on the heart while maintaining the supply of blood to the body, and this seems to help the heart recover," said Terracciano.
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