A recent study showed a new medicine, known as AF-130, tested on an animal model at Waipapa Taumata Rau, the University of Auckland prevented sleep apnea, which reduces lifespan, and improved the heart’s ability to pump blood.
“This drug does offer benefit for heart failure, but it’s two for the price of one, in that it’s also relieving the apnoea for which there is currently no drug, only CPAP (a breathing device), which is poorly tolerated,” says Professor Julian Paton, director of the University’s Manaaki Manawa, Centre for Heart Research said in a statement.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when breathing is interrupted during sleep, for longer than 10 seconds at least five times per hour throughout the sleep period, according to John Hopkins Medicine.
During a heart attack and subsequent heart failure, the brain activates the sympathetic system, the ‘fight or flight’ response to stimulate the heart to pump blood. However, the brain continues this activation of the nervous system even when it is not required. This along with consequent sleep apnea contributes to the reduced life expectancy of the patient. Most patients die within five years of a heart failure diagnosis, according to the statement by the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Health and Medicine of the University.
“This study has revealed the first drug to temper the nervous activity from the brain to the heart thereby reversing the heart’s progressive decline in heart failure,” said Professor Paton. The part of the brain that sends the nervous impulses to the heart also controls respiration. Hence, this drug, AF-130, has two functions: reducing the ‘fight or flight’ response while enabling breathing to stop sleep apnea.
According to Paton, the findings could help improve the wellness and life expectancy of almost 200,000 people living with heart disease in Aotearoa New Zealand.