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Single injection ‘could repair damaged hearts’ after world-first trial

29 April 2017

Professor Noel Caplice, UCC, has shown in a trial, the first of its kind in the world, that low dose insulin-like growth factor, injected into the heart to repair damage to the muscle, improves remodelling for heart attack patients.

Professor Noel Caplice, Chair of Cardiovascular Sciences, UCC; John Nolan from New Ross, a participant on the trial; and his wife Margaret. Photo: Clare Keogh.

Professor Caplice, and his cardiologist colleagues at Cork University Hospital successfully tested the growth factor in the clinical trial (RESUS-AMI), which was funded by a €1 million grant under the joint HRB-SFI Translational Research Award programme.

Around 20% of people who suffer heart attacks have severe ongoing difficulties because of lasting damage to heart muscle even after the best current therapies, often resulting in patients developing long-term heart failure, associated with increased morbidity and mortality.

In this trial patients received two different low dose preparations of insulin-like growth factor or placebo in a randomised double blinded clinical trial, with results showing those who received the higher dose had improved remodelling of their heart muscle in the two-month follow-up after their heart attack, which correlated with other measures of improved heart performance.

'We are delighted that an important human study like this could be funded in Ireland and performed in Cork. This pilot trial is the first of its kind worldwide showing that single injection of low dose IGF1 is safe and can improve cardiac repair after a large heart attack', said Professor Noel Caplice, Chair of Cardiovascular Sciences, UCC.

If future bigger trials are successful, the growth factor could be applied more widely to improve the quality of life and life expectancy of any patient who has suffered a large heart attack, and be financially beneficial to the health service by reducing ongoing care costs.

According to Dr Mairéad O'Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the HRB:

'Results like these are a perfect illustration of why the HRB has invested so much in building Ireland’s capacity to conduct clinical trials; so that our brilliant researchers, like Professor Caplice, can conduct research that will improve the outcomes for patients. I’d like to congratulate everyone involved in this ground-breaking project, which could have a profound global impact'.

John Nolan from New Ross, Wexford, became one of the patients in the trial, after suffering a heart attack in December 2014.

'I feel I was blessed to be asked to be involved; I had confidence that good would come from it, in terms of how they explained it to me. Looking back on it now, I feel it was the right choice'.

John’s wife, Margaret, added:

'Even as a nurse, I felt very vulnerable at the thought that my husband could’ve died. I speak on behalf of myself and my children, I’m really grateful for the aftercare and attention John received as a result of being on his trial. They updated us after every procedure as to how he was doing'.

The research has been recognised and peer-reviewed by the European Society of Cardiology and the trial will be presented for the first time at its Heart Failure 2017 conference in Paris on April 29.

The full press release is available from the UCC website.

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