Scientists have found a naturally occurring protein can protect against heart cell damage after a heart attack.
Nerve growth factor (NGF) was thought to act only on nerve cells in the body, but mounting evidence suggests it acts on heart muscle cells too.
A Bristol Heart Institute team tested NGF in rats and this had promising results, Cell Death and Differentiation journal reports.
They are hopeful that the treatment would also benefit humans. Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the UK. In 2004, there were about 231,000 new heart attacks.
Heart attacks happen when one of the coronary arteries carrying oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle is blocked. If the blood supply is cut off, a part of the heart muscle dies. And this can lead to complications such as heart failure.
Drugs are already available to help prevent and minimise the damage caused by a heart attack.
These include aspirin, which works by thinning the blood to improve blood flow, and clot-busting drugs called thrombolytics to dissolve clots in the artery.
Source - BBC