A group from Johns Hopkins University is reporting that a drug known as alagebrium has been shown to reduce the stiffness of arteries in elderly patients suffering from systolic hypertension by breaking down collagen crosslinks. The data was presented in poster-form at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2005. According to the press release:
“This is the first demonstration that this class of drugs, known as collagen-crosslink breakers, can turn back the clock and make old arteries behave like young ones,” says senior study investigator and geriatric cardiologist Susan Zieman, M.D., an assistant professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart Institute. “There are many medications for routine hypertension, and coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart attack and heart failure, but none that help counteract the aging of cells inside the arterial walls that often precedes symptoms of disease.”
The Hopkins researchers found that alagebrium, formally known as ALT-711 or 4,5-dimethyl-3-(2-oxo-2-phenylethyl)-thiazolium chloride, reduced stiffening in the vessel wall in the main artery of the neck (carotid artery) by as much as 37 percent. The drug also improved endothelial function, the ability of the vessels’ inner lining to relax and dilate in response to increased stress from blood flow, by 102 percent.
Chemically, alagebrium is a so-called crosslink breaker, responsible for destroying the rigid chemical bonds known as advanced glycation endproducts, or AGE for short, that form between body proteins and sugars over time. According to Zieman, both stiffening and reduced capacity of the arteries to expand in response to stress are common effects of aging that occur when the crosslinks form in the body’s key structural proteins, such as collagen, or when AGEs interact directly with enzymes that regulate blood flow.
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