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Nitric Oxide May Have Connection to Heart Failure

Study raises possibility of new treatments

FRIDAY, April 29, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Enzymes that make the gas nitric oxide can help protect the heart but can also promote heart failure, reports a Johns Hopkins Medicine study in the May 2 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

In research with mice, the Hopkins team found that these enzymes protect the heart from damage caused by heart attack or high blood pressure. But they also found that the enzymes cause overgrowth and enlargement of heart muscle tissue, which can promote heart failure.

The findings suggest that it may be possible to develop treatments for heart failure that use chemical co-factors that control the action of enzymes that make nitric oxide.

The Hopkins team focused on nitric-oxide synthase-3 (NOS3), the most prominent of the enzymes in question, and its co-factor tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4).

"This study shows that nitric-oxide-making enzymes can have both beneficial and detrimental effects on the heart," Dr. David Kass, a specialist in enlarged hearts and a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart Institute, said in a prepared statement.

"However, these harmful effects can, at least in mice, be treated with its naturally occurring cofactor, BH4, suggesting a possible therapy in the future," Kass said.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about heart failure.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, April 26, 2005
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