MONDAY, April 24, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- New research shows that blocking the action of a key protein can reduce unhealthy inflammation in patients with "metabolic syndrome" -- a constellation of risk factors that often precedes diabetes and heart disease.
The metabolic syndrome is a group of symptoms including abdominal obesity; insulin resistance or glucose intolerance; high triglycerides and LDL ("bad") cholesterol, low HDL ("good") cholesterol; and abnormal levels of several inflammatory proteins.
The finding by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston is a first and, if supported in future studies, may suggest new ways to reduce cardiovascular risk in people with the metabolic syndrome.
"This proof of principle sheds light on the physiology of inflammation and its relation to cardiac risk in obese patients. And it's the first study of the medication etanercept (Enbrel), currently prescribed to treat arthritis and psoriasis, used in patients with the metabolic syndrome," senior author Dr. Steven Grinspoon, of the hospital's Program in Nutritional Metabolism and Neuroendocrine Unit, said in a prepared statement.
The study included 56 patients aged 37 to 54 who had the metabolic syndrome but did not have diabetes, cardiovascular disease or any other inflammatory disorder. Half of the patients received weekly injections of etanercept and half received a placebo during the four-week study.
Each week, the patients had a physical examination and blood tests for levels of glucose, insulin and various markers including C-reactive protein (CRP), which is linked to inflammation and has been associated with an increase risk of cardiovascular disease.
At the end of the study period, CRP levels in the patients who received etanercept were 34 percent lower than in those who received the placebo. The patients who received etanercept also had lower levels of other inflammatory factors associated with increased cardiovascular risk and increased levels of adiponectin, a factor that reduces inflammation.
The study received funding from Amgen Inc., which markets Enbrel.
The American Medical Association has more about the metabolic syndrome.