UVA scientists find a shortcut to new treatments
The federal government has already approved more than 20,000 medications – reviewing studies that show they are safe for treatment of various diseases, but they could treat other things. For example, many conditions can cause the heart to grow, and UVA researcher Taylor Eggertsen says that’s the first stage of heart failure.
“You have all this muscle tissue that gets big and strong, but it needs nutrients, it needs blood, it needs oxygen, and that kind of support just ends up not being available," he explains. "Then, over time the muscle in the heart actually starts to die off.”
But he and colleague Jeffrey Saucerman developed a sophisticated computer model that could search through thousands of drugs to find those with potential to prevent enlargement. They found 38, including one with special promise called Midostauran which is used to treat acute myeloid leukemia.
They tested the drug on heart cells in the lab, and – sure enough – it was highly effective. Scientists must still do tests on animals and people – to verify safety and determine the ideal dose – but this early computer analysis could mean treatment is available sooner for those at risk for heart failure – a condition already diagnosed in nearly seven million Americans.