Shrinking the heart to fight cardiac failure

British surgeons are all set to conduct the world’s first ‘heart shrinking’ trial in humans aimed at combating cardiac failure.

    The technique will involve electrically stimulating one of the nerves leading to the heart, which it is hoped could shrink the heart and improve life expectancy, says a team at the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and The Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

    The first patient will be operated on next week, after the technique was shown to keep rats and dogs alive for longer, the BBC reported.

    As the heart loses its ability to pump, it fills with too much blood and becomes stretched over time. The more the heart enlarges, the worse the symptoms. So, surgeons hope to reverse the damage.

    They will fit a device — similar to a pacemaker — to the vagus nerve which runs to the heart. Surgeons say that the electrical stimulation should “protect the heart” from the effects of the hormone adrenaline.

    Adrenaline makes the heart pump harder and faster; this is one of the body’s responses to heart failure — but doctors say it becomes toxic over time and damages the heart further.

    The idea is that by shielding the heart, it’ll stop enlarging and begin to shrink, say the surgeons.

    Dr Jay Wright, a consultant cardiologist at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, said, “We’re hoping it will shrink the heart, but it might not be to normal size.” He said shrinkage “would lead to improvement in symptoms — we know that the bigger the heart the worse the symptoms”.

    Nearly 100 patients will take part in the trial at 30 hospitals around the world.

    The first will be Carl Jordan, who used to be a paramedic. He has had several heart attacks which have damaged his heart, causing it to become enlarged.

Sunlight can cut heart attack risk Scientists claim to have come up with a new way to prevent as well as treat heart attacks — by using intense light. “The study suggests that strong light, or even just daylight, might ease the risk of having a heart attack or suffering damage from one,” said Tobias Eckle, who led a team at the University of Colorado. The link between heart attacks and light is explained through the working of the circadian rhythm or the body’s clock , which is regulated by proteins in the brain. The scientists found that one of those proteins, called Period 2, plays a crucial role in fending off damage from a heart attack, and strong daylight activates Period 2 in animals and minimized damage from a heart attack.


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