Research Snapshot: “Molecular Band-Aid” Shows Promise to Prevent Heart Attack Damage

It’s estimated that someone in the U.S. has a heart attack every 43 seconds.

Currently, there is no clinical treatment available to prevent or reverse injuries that cut off blood flow caused by heart attacks, but injecting a special compound called Poloxamer 188 (P188) during a heart attack has shown promising results in pig models, researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School found.

A poloxamer is a type of triblock copolymer, which is a macromolecule that acts as an agent to lower the surface tension between two liquids, or a liquid and a solid.

“P188 could repair damage as it’s happening,” said Joseph Metzger, Ph.D., professor and head of the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology.

P188 preserves cell structure and reduces damage. P188 is sometimes referred to as a “molecular band-aid.”

“If we can better understand how P188 is working, and how to apply that to treatments for people, this could greatly improve outcomes in patients suffering from heart attacks,” said Demetri Yannopoulos, M.D., associate professor in the cardiovascular division of the Department of Medicine.

The study was published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Heart attacks can cut off respiration and stress tolerance, leading to cell death and greater tissue damage. In this study, pigs who received immediate injections to the heart were able to preserve functions needed to keep cells alive.

In fact, the study found P188 reduced heart attack size by more than 60 percent when injected directly into the heart, in comparison with an intravenous injection.

Yannopoulos and Metzger co-authored the study with Frank Bates, Sc.D., regents professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

Metzger, Yannopolous and Bates will continue to study P188’s impact in ST-segment elevation heart attacks, and in other related heart conditions.

Learn more about their research.