Inflammation inhibitor may limit heart attacks

Last year, scientists reported that a person’s risk of a heart attack is doubled if he or she produces a particular version of FLAP, known more technically as 5-lipoxygenase activating protein. A troublesome variant of this protein boosts production of the inflammatory hormone leukotriene B4. Now, researchers report that an experimental drug suppresses this inflammation mechanism.

Excess leukotriene B4 could cause a heart attack by triggering the rupture of fatty plaques in arteries, says study coauthor Hákon Hákonarson of Decode Genetics of Reykjavik, Iceland. Such ruptures can lead to blood clots and can also shed fragments that dam blood vessels downstream.

Hákonarson and his colleagues gave either a placebo or the drug, dubbed DG-031, to 191 people, ages 40 to 75, who had previously had heart attacks. After 4 weeks of receiving three of one kind of pill a day, each patient got the other kind of pill for another 4 weeks. Most of the volunteers carried the troublesome version of the FLAP gene, but some carried a different gene whose associated protein also revs up inflammation.

DG-031, but not the placebo, suppressed leukotriene B4 and blood concentrations of C-reactive protein, which has been associated with heart disease. Further testing might determine whether suppressing inflammation with this drug can prevent heart attacks, the researchers say in the May 11 Journal of the American Medical Association.

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