New technique for detecting cardiac fibrosis

A medical team of the Basque Country has discovered a new technique to detect cardiac fibrosis. After a research carried out during several years, it has been discovered that serum leves of PIP peptide is an indicator of increased myocardial fibrosis.

Fibrosis is formed when scar tissue is accumulated in heart. As a consequence it causes stiffening of the heart and often heart failure. In order to fight against such disease, researchers started looking for an indicator substance in blood.

Collagen amount and PIP

This research started 10 years ago with spontaneoulsy hypertensive rats. As a result, they could find out that hypertensive disease increases the amount of heart collagen. On the other hand, researchers did know that in some other diseases, like cirrhosis of the liver, collagen amount used to increase. It was also well known that in such disease the serum amount of PIP substance (carboxyterminal peptide of type 1 procollagen) was high. Hence, could it be possible that this peptide shows also which patientes are accumulating too much scar tissue in the heart?

The research carried out in rats confirmed that. The amount of peptide was clearly higher in those rats who had abnormal myocardial fibrosis than in those who did not. However, the result had to be tested in human beings. To do that, they did blood analysis and endomyocardial biopsies in hypertensive patients and found that in these patients myocardial collagen content was 4-5 times higher than in normotensive subjects and was closely correlated with serum levels of PIP.

Successful results

This new indicator, PIP substance, can successfully detect fibrosis in 80% of the cases. That is a great step forward considering the detection rate of the existing techniques. Now, in order to apply this technique, measures of PIP must be carried out in more patients. However, it has been proved that cardiac fibrosis is caused by hypertension and that it can be detected thanks to PIP peptide.

Moreover, analysing treatments to lower high blood pressure, they find out that some of the used medications which counteract the effects of a substance called angiotensin II, had a backward effect on fibrosis. This backward effect was observed in PIP substance aswell. Therefore, apart from indicating the presence of the disease and showing its severity, it may be used to assess the capability of antihipertensive medications to repare myocardial structure.

Future researches will be focused on physiological and pathological relationship between heart failure, fibrosis and high blood pressure. Then it may be possible to find prevention pathways of heart failure, which is widely prevalent in our age-increasing society.

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