Natural chemicals found in apples and other common fruits have been identified that could protect vital organs from long-term damage following a heart attack or stroke, according to new research.
In a new study published in the journal Nature
, scientists at the Medical Research Council and the University of Cambridge say the chemicals could provide a starting point for developing new injectable drugs to prevent some of the long-term damage caused by cardiovascular diseases, Medical Xpress
During a heart attack or stroke, a clot can starve the heart or brain of oxygen, causing irreversible damage. Further damage can result when the clot is dislodged and blood rushes back into the heart or brain.
The new study is the first to discover that the damage caused by the return of blood flow is caused by a buildup of a chemical called succinate, which occurs naturally in the body when sugar and fat are broken down to release the energy stored in food.
But in experiments involving mice, the researchers also discovered that they can reduce organ damage by administering simple chemicals, called malonate esters, when blood flow is restored. Malonate esters are cheap, readily available, and found naturally in fruits such as apples, strawberries, and grapes.
The findings could also have implications in surgery where transplanted organs such as the kidney, liver, and the heart all suffer damage after they are connected to the transplant patient's blood flow.
"This research explains how organ damage occurs during the first few minutes of restoring blood supply after a heart attack or stroke and, importantly, how to stop this damage,” said researcher Michael Murphy, M.D.
"We have used simple chemicals found in everyday fruits like apples and grapes, which had never been suspected as being therapeutically useful before. Amazingly, these chemicals worked very well."
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