14/03/2017 09:47 GMT | Updated 16/03/2017 15:09 GMT

Drug Could Regenerate Damaged Tissue After A Heart Attack, Study Suggests

It's been inspired by a molecule found in sharks.

US researchers claim to have identified a groundbreaking drug that could restore heart muscle function following a heart attack.

A new study describes how MSI-1436, a naturally occurring compound, regenerates heart muscle tissue in zebrafish and mice.

The animals are separated by 450 million years of evolution, raising hopes that the drug could help heal human hearts too.

MDI Laboratory is now looking to acquire funding to test MSI-1436 on pigs and say a drug could be on the market within 10-20 years.

Coronary heart disease is responsible for 73,000 deaths in the UK each year and heart attacks are one of the main symptoms. But there is currently no drug to restore heart muscle function after an attack.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, told HuffPost UK he was excited about the study: “It is surprising that a single molecule has such extensive and complete effects.”

He added that the precise mechanisms by which MSI-1436 causes regeneration of damaged issues needs to be clarified.

BorisPamikov via Getty Images

While most regenerative medicine focuses on complex engineering therapies involving stem cells, genes and tissues, MDI has taken a different approach.

They started focusing on regenerative animals after they realised that a molecule in the dogfish shark causes zebrafish to regenerate even faster than normal, Portland Press Herald reported. MSI-1436 is made from that molecule.

When it was administered to mice 24 hours after an artificially induced heart attacks, it increased survival rates by 15-25 per cent, improved heart function two to three fold and reduced the size of dead or scar tissue by 53 per cent, the study shows.

It’s believed that the genetic pathways that enable regeneration in zebrafish are present but, for an unknown reason, inactive in humans and mice. 

The scientists hope that MSI-1436 could reactivate those pathways, repairing scar tissue and helping people to better recover from heart attacks.

The drug has already been tested in humans for a different application and has been deemed safe to use in higher doses than would be required. 

Professor Samani said: “Excitement in the findings is increased by the fact that MSI-1436 has already been tested in humans for other conditions and shown to be relatively safe.

“Therefore if further pre-clinical studies confirm the current findings and do not show any deleterious side-effects, than it may be possible to proceed to moving to human studies more quickly.”