MONDAY, Oct. 1, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Coronary artery disease may actually precondition the heart and make it more resistant to damage than hearts unaffected by the illness, a British study in mice suggests.
Researchers at the University of Bristol and the Bristol Heart Institute used mice that were genetically modified to be prone to fatty build-up in the coronary arteries. One group of these mice was fed a high-fat diet typical of Western nations, while the other group of mice was fed a normal rodent diet. The mice fed a high-fat diet developed coronary artery disease, while those fed the rodent diet did not.
The researchers then stopped and restarted the rodents' hearts -- mimicking the conditions used in heart bypass surgery.
They found that the hearts of the mice with coronary artery disease were less likely to be harmed than the hearts of healthy mice.
This suggests that coronary artery disease "preconditioned" the hearts -- they'd developed an innate protection against further damage, said the authors of the study, which is published in the October issue of the journal Critical Care Medicine.
The researchers noted that there's a common belief that in certain patients who survive a heart attack, the heart may have been naturally preconditioned against further damage.
This is something that surgeons and cardiologists may be able to exploit in order to protect the heart when treating people with coronary disease, suggested the team members, who are continuing their investigation into this internal heart protection mechanism.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about coronary artery disease.