A heart attack is one of the main manifestations of heart disease and is the leading cause of death in the world.
In a recent study published in The European Heart Journal, researchers found that an existing drug could reduce the long-term consequences of a heart attack, benefitting millions of patients.
Metoprolol is a member of the beta-blocker class of drugs that has been in use for more than 40 years, has been found to have unique heart-protective features.
The researchers found that the heart-protective effect of metoprolol during a heart attack is not shared by other beta-blockers.
The research is from the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC) and elsewhere. One author is Dr. Borja Ibáñez.
A previous study showed that the use of metoprolol very early during a heart attack limits damage to the heart and reduces long-term consequences.
The researchers showed that the heart-protective potential of metoprolol lies in its ability to block the action of neutrophils—inflammatory cells activated during infection to eliminate pathogens—preventing them from entering the infarcted heart tissue.
In the current study, the team found that metoprolol’s heart-protective properties are not shared by other beta-blockers and are thus not a class effect.
They found that neutrophils, as well as protecting against infection, can become hyperactivated in other situations, such as during a heart attack, when they can cause significant additional injury to the heart.
Metoprolol is able to limit this hyperactivation, thereby preventing inflammatory damage associated with the heart attack.
The study also assessed the effects of different beta-blockers in other models of inflammatory disease, like lung damage and peritonitis.
The team found the drug metoprolol was the only beta-blocker able to limit the organ damage inflicted by hyperactivated neutrophils.
The researchers say that if these results are confirmed in future clinical studies, this would herald a change in the clinical guidelines for heart attacks.
The findings can place metoproplol, and not other beta-blockers, as the drug of choice for patients suffering a heart attack.
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