Professor Ken Suzuki, William Harvey Research Institute
Despite recent medical progress, heart attack and resulting heart failure are still major causes of death and disability in the UK. Research has shown that the heart contains cells called ‘macrophages’; these cells are usually involved in our immune system but also have an important role in repair and regeneration of the heart after a heart attack.
Using a laboratory model which mimics heart attack in humans, this project investigated the effects of a naturally-occurring messenger chemical, called Interleukin-4 (IL-4), on macrophages and the heart.
The findings show that IL-4 stimulated macrophages and was an effective treatment for heart attack. Also, the study optimised the dose and timing of the treatment, showing that IL-4 was effective when given in the early stages following heart attack and that the benefits lasted for a long while, with no side-effects being seen.
These promising results show that IL-4 has potential as a safe and effective new biological drug for the treatment of heart attack. Prof Suzuki is now planning further studies to help progress the drug towards clinical trials in the future.