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Bear bile good for heart-attack victims: Study

Written by: QMI Agency
Aug. 2, 2011

A compound found in bear bile could be used to treat heart-attack victims, new research suggests.

The compound, ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), is already used to lower cholesterol and help dissolve gallstones, and it's a key ingredient in many traditional Chinese medicines, which use bear bile.

New research out of Imperial College London shows it might also be able to treat abnormal heart rhythm, or arrhythmia, in fetuses and heart-attack victims.

But no bears need be bothered because the compound can be chemically synthesized in a lab.

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It works by altering the electrical properties of myofibroblasts, cells that disrupt electrical signals in the heart.

Myofibroblasts only appear in fetuses and heart-attack victims, where they are involved in laying down scar tissue.

"These findings are exciting because the treatments we have now are largely ineffective at preventing arrhythmia in patients who develop an abnormal heart rhythm after a heart attack," said Dr. Julia Gorelik, the study's lead author.

"Our results from the lab suggest that UDCA could help the heart muscle conduct electrical signals more normally. We're hoping to set up a clinical trial to test whether these results translate to patients with heart failure."

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