Summary: Glucose-lowering SGLT2 inhibitors, the inflammation-lowering drug Canakinumab, cholesterol-lowering PCSK9 inhibitors, and using gene editing to fix mutations, were named by the AHA in its list of the top advances in heart disease and stroke research of 2017. [This article first appeared on the website LongevityFacts. Author: Brady Hartman.]
Here’s an executive summary of four of these top research advances:
Fixing Genetic Mutation in Human Embryos
When the MYBPC3 gene is defective, it causes a form of inherited hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a disease that affects 1 out of 500 people and sometimes results in sudden death.
Last year, in a landmark study, researchers used CRISPR gene editing to correct abnormalities in the MYBPC3 gene in embryos. Were one of the embryos implanted, it could have led to the birth of the first genetically-engineered human, the so-called designer babies. While research in this area is still in the early stage, it holds promise for the use of gene editing to correct inherited genetic mutations.
SGLT2 Inhibitors Reduce Heart Failure and Death
SGLT2 inhibitors are a promising class of new diabetes medications that lower glucose. A study of diabetics taking SGLT2 inhibitors reported lower rates of heart failure and death when compared to diabetics taking other glucose-lowering drugs.
Canakinumab – A New Drug for Reducing Inflammation and Cardiovascular Events
The inflammation-lowering drug Canakinumab was also named a top advance of 2017. The CANTOS study reported that Canakinumab reduced heart attacks by around 25% and cancer by about 50% when taken by patients who previously suffered a heart attack. However, as the AHA said in its announcement,
“Although the drug did not reduce overall deaths from any cause and was associated with significant side effects, the principle underlying the use of a specific anti-inflammatory antibody is important.”
New Cholesterol-lowering Medication Cuts the Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke
The PCSK9 inhibitor evolocumab as named among the top advances. As the AHA said in its announcement,
“The FOURIER study – paid for by Amgen, which makes and sells the PCSK9 inhibitor evolocumab under the brand name Repatha – showed that the drug cut the risk of having a heart attack, stroke or dying from a cardiovascular cause by 20 percent when added to intensive statin therapy.”
What the AHA didn’t mention in its press release, is that while PCSK9 inhibitors are potent, they are expensive when compared to generic statins, costing each patient about $15,000 a year. Statins are widely used cholesterol-lowering medications. In fact, statins are so effective that doctors once joked we should be putting them in the drinking water. None the less, many doctors feel that PCSK9 inhibitors have a role in the treatment of patients with very high cholesterol levels.
AHA’s Remaining Heart Disease and Stroke Advances
The AHA announced six other heart disease and stroke advances on its top ten list, including updated guidelines for blood pressure and the treatment of stroke, new treatments for peripheral artery disease (PAD), and various research articles. You can read more about them in the AHA announcement.
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References / Credits
Cover photo credit: Getty Images(iStock).
AHA names top heart disease and stroke research advances of 2017. American Heart Association. February 8, 2018. Link to AHA announcement.
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