December 14, 2020

Polymer protection for heart muscle

Vanderbilt researchers demonstrate that the polymer P188 has promise as a therapy to prevent reperfusion injury — the cellular damage that occurs when blood flow returns after an ischemic event like a heart attack.

by Leigh MacMillan

Following an ischemic event that disrupts oxygen supply to the heart, such as myocardial infarction or cardiac arrest, the return of blood flow can result in additional cellular injury, known as reperfusion injury. 

Studies have suggested that Poloxamer 188 (P188), a polymer with hydrophobic and hydrophilic chemical properties, can stabilize cell membranes and protect cardiac muscle when given before or during the ischemic event. 

Matthias Riess, MD, PhD, and colleagues studied the effects of P188 delivered at the beginning of reperfusion, a clinically important time frame for preserving cell function. 

They used hypoxia/reoxygenation of an in vitro cardiomyocyte system to simulate ischemia/reperfusion. They showed that reoxygenation potentiated injury caused by hypoxia; P188 dose-dependently protected cardiac muscle cells from reoxygenation injury; and the hydrophobic portion of the P188 polymer is necessary. 

The findings, reported in Pharmacology Research & Perspectives, support continued study of P188 as a potential therapy to prevent reperfusion injury.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant HL123227), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.