Medical Research at the JKU: Injection to Prevent Heart Attacks

Researchers at the JKU are developing an injection to help paramedics save over 20% of heart muscles from dying.

[Translate to Englisch:] Bernhard

Heart attacks are responsible for 41% of deaths in Austria. Each year over 41,000 people experience their worst nightmare and a quick response saves lives. Researchers at the Johannes Kepler University Linz are developing an injection that will help paramedics on-site save 20% of the heart muscle from dying. The injection has already been successfully tested in the laboratory.

Not enough to live, too much to die: when in cardiac arrest, the heart’s supply of oxygen is cut off and the surrounding heart tissue then succumbs to a lack of oxygen. An injection developed by Univ. Prof. David Bernhard (head of the Center for Medical Research at the JKU) can save the tissue. Prof. Bernhard and his team have further developed the active ingredient 5’-methoxyleoligin which can not only protect oxygen-deprived heart tissue from the effects of cardiac arrest, it can be administered intravenously. An emergency injection on-site by a medical professional would be sufficient as until now, cardiac cases could only first be surgically treated at the hospital.

Edelweiß Root
The drug is naturally derived as methoxyleoligin is a lignan from the alpine Edelweiss flower. Prof. Bernhard remarked, “Meanwhile we have learned how to produce it synthetically.” The drug’s benefits go even further as in the event of cardiac arrest, the cells try and use available oxygen more efficiently. The problem is that the oxygen is actually a toxin. When placing a catheter in the heart, the heart muscle receives too much oxygen, causing additional damage as it tries to efficiently process it. The JKU injection reduces the effect considerably and reduces oxygen damage.

The Complex Human Body
During the course of the project, Prof. Bernhard learned just how difficult medical research can be.  An infinite amount of interactions must be taken into consideration. While it has been documented that vitamin A protects against cardiovascular diseases, scientists have meanwhile learned that a derivative of this vitamin does the opposite in the event of cardiac arrent, thus accelerating cell death. The multi-talented Methoxyleoligin can also prevent this effect. Prof. Bernhard added, “The new active ingredient prevents the dangerous vitamin A derivative from being absorbed in the heart muscle cells.”

The research findings have now been introduced to the professional community. All in all, under the leadership of the JKU, experts from six Austrian universities have been working on this project for several years. The follow-up project has already begun. Among Prof Bernhard’s goals is to have a new treatment for acute cardiac arrest available to emergency physicians and cardiologists.

It will take a while before the injection can actually be used in the field. The JKU researcher remarked, “We have to conduct additional testing. According to the law, we can only test the serum on humans in three years at the earliest.”