Decreased release of neurotransmitter acetylcholine contributes to heart failure

February 08, 2016

Marco and Vania Prado genetically modified a line of mice with decreased secretion of acetylcholine originally for use in studying neuronal function in diseases such as Alzheimer's. But they found these mice, over time, developed changes in their hearts that progressively decreased their ability to pump blood, similar to what occurs with heart failure in humans.

"There are other mouse and rat models of heart failure, but what we haven't had before is a model where we specifically target this chemical messenger, acetylcholine," says Marco Prado, a professor in the Departments of Physiology & Pharmacology and Anatomy & Cell Biology. "One striking finding in this study is that heart dysfunction in these mice could be corrected by treating the animals with an existing drug which increases acetylcholine levels. Although it requires further study, this could provide a novel opportunity for treating failing hearts." The drug, Pyridostigmine, is currently approved for use in treating certain cases of muscle weakness.

In Canada, the study was supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Source: University of Western Ontario