Researchers at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria have developed a drug that enables the rapid treatment of heart attack patients on site. 5`-Methoxyleoligin can be administered intravenously by emergency doctors. Myocardial infarction is the most frequent cause of death in Austria. A rapid medical intervention can save the lives of those affected. Until now, this procedure could only be performed in hospital. Professor David Bernhard, head of the Centre for Medical Research at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, has now developed 5`-Methoxyleoligin – an active substance that replaces this intervention and can be used by emergency doctors on site in the form of a syringe.
During a heart attack, part of the heart is cut off from the oxygen supply. The surrounding heart tissue is no longer fully supplied with oxygen and eventually dies. 5`-Methoxyleoligin protects the deficient heart tissue from these effects of the attack. The active ingredient was originally extracted from the root of the edelweiss flower and can now be produced synthetically.
The research work proved to be extremely difficult. Many interactions had to be considered. After completion of the project, however, 5`-Methoxyleoligin proved to be suitable in several ways for the treatment of heart attack patients:
- Until now it was assumed that vitamin A protects against cardiovascular diseases. Now it became apparent that a derivative of this vitamin turns into the opposite in the case of a heart attack and thus accelerates cell death. 5`-Methoxyleoligin prevents this effect.
- In the case of a heart attack, the cells try to use oxygen particularly efficiently. However, oxygen is a poison. When a heart catheter is inserted, an excess of oxygen reaches the heart muscle. In combination with the extremely efficient processing, this causes additional damage. 5′-Methoxyleoligin reduces this effect and significantly reduces oxygen damage.
The research project ran for several years under the leadership of the Johannes Kepler University Linz. In total, experts from six Austrian universities were involved. In the follow-up project, the active substance will be tested in everyday clinical use. It will be at least three years before the drug can be used on humans. This is how long the required tests will run.