Carbon Monoxide: a potential new treatment for heart disease?

RestenosisScientists from the Cardiovascular Science Department, University of Sheffield are investigating whether a low dose of carbon monoxide can prevent heart disease.

Low amounts of carbon monoxide, produced naturally in the body, is known to be involved in stopping inflammation and unwanted cell growth. Both of these biological processes play a major role in the development of heart disease and are the main targets for research into new treatments.

This research, funded by two separate grants from the British Heart Foundation (to a total value of £383,512) will investigate whether a new way of delivering carbon monoxide to the body can prevent heart disease without any of the harmful side effects of this gas. The studies will use carbon-monoxide releasing molecules (CORMS), which are newly emerging as a safe way of carrying and releasing controlled amounts of carbon monoxide into the body. The Department of Chemistry in Sheffield (Emeritus Professor Brian Mann) was one of the first to synthesise these molecules.

Most patients that have established heart disease undergo a stent treatment to re-open blocked blood vessels and prevent heart attacks. However, this treatment can result in the formation of a scar (known as restenosis), that can re-block the artery. This research will investigate whether treating with CORMs can prevent this restenosis, building on data that shows the drug is effective in reducing this scar formation in similar treatments that don’t involve a stent. The research will use a mouse model, and will look into the best time to deliver the drug after stenting, and which CORM molecule is the most effective (one that releases carbon monoxide slowly, compared with a fast-releasing version).

CORMs have also been shown to reduce the damage to heart muscles done by a heart attack. Research funded by one of these grants will evaluate safety and efficacy of these compounds in a large animal model of heart attack. The results of this study may provide a newer treatment to reduce the damaging effect of heart attack and occurrence of heart failure, which should next be tested in a first-in-man study.

The Department has high hopes of these avenues of research leading to potential future treatments for patients with heart disease in due course.