Scientists find new drug treating both heart failure and sleep apnea

Credit: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels

A promising new drug called AF-130 is being developed to help people suffering from heart failure, which is a common condition linked to sleep apnea and a reduced lifespan.

Researchers at the University of Auckland tested this drug on animals and found that it not only improved the heart’s ability to pump blood, but it also prevented sleep apnea.

This is a condition that is usually treated with a breathing device called CPAP, which many people find difficult to use.

The study showed that AF-130 was able to reduce the activation of the sympathetic system in the brain, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” response.

When a person has a heart attack and heart failure, the sympathetic system is activated to help the heart pump blood.

However, this activation can continue even when it’s no longer needed, leading to sleep apnea and contributing to the patient’s reduced life expectancy.

Most heart failure patients die within five years of their diagnosis.

The team says this drug does offer benefit for heart failure, but it’s two for the price of one, in that it’s also relieving the apnea for which there is currently no drug, only CPAP (a breathing device), which is poorly tolerated.

The drug has a dual function as it not only reduces the “fight or flight” response, but it also stimulates breathing to stop sleep apnea.

These findings have real potential for improving the wellness and life expectancy of almost 200,000 people living with heart disease in Aotearoa New Zealand.

One exciting aspect of the drug is that it is soon to be FDA-approved for a different health issue, which means that human trials for heart failure treatment could begin within the next year or two.

Over recent decades there have been several classes of drugs that have improved the prognosis of heart failure.

However, none of these drugs work in the way that this new agent does. So it is exciting to see a novel method that potentially reverses some features of heart failure.

Heart failure and sleep apnea

Heart failure and sleep apnea are two serious conditions that can greatly affect a person’s quality of life and even shorten their lifespan.

When someone experiences heart failure, their heart becomes less able to pump blood effectively, which can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, and fluid buildup in the lungs and other parts of the body.

Sleep apnea, on the other hand, is a disorder in which a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep, often due to a blocked airway.

This can cause loud snoring, gasping or choking during sleep, and daytime fatigue.

Unfortunately, these two conditions often go hand in hand. People with heart failure are more likely to have sleep apnea, and having sleep apnea can make heart failure worse.

When a person has a heart attack and subsequent heart failure, the brain responds by activating the sympathetic system, the “fight or flight” response, as a way to stimulate the heart to pump blood.

However, the brain persists with this activation of the nervous system, even when it is no longer required, and this together with the consequent sleep apnea contributes to the patient’s reduced life expectancy.

Most patients die within five years of a heart failure diagnosis.

If you care about heart failure, please read studies about aspirin linked to higher heart failure risk, and people with heart failure may have different tongues.

For more information about sleep, please see recent studies about meds that could treat sleep loss and insomnia, and results showing Move around a lot while you sleep? It might be bad to your heart.

The study was conducted by Professor Julian Paton et al and published in the journal Nature Communications.

Copyright © 2023 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.