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Heart hope from bear chemical

2nd August 2011

Researchers have said that a chemical found in bear bile could be used to treat people with heart problems.

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Scientists from Imperial College in London have carried out a study which found the compound Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) may be able to prevent cardiac arrhythmia in unborn children and in people who have suffered heart attacks.

The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Imperial Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre and Action Medical Research. 

The chemical is already in use as a method to dissolve gallstones and is also used to decrease cholesterol in the body.

The compound is able to alter the electrical transmissions of myofibroblast cells, which can be found in foetal hearts and in people who have had a heart attack.

Dr Julia Gorelik, the study's senior author said: "These findings are exciting. Our results from the lab suggest that UDCA could help the heart muscle conduct electrical signals more normally." 

Peter Weisssberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This study provides some insight into how bile acids might cause fatal rhythm disturbances in foetal hearts."

"If the same mechanism applies to adult hearts after a heart attack, this could prove to be a useful treatment to prevent serious heart rhythm disorders."

 

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