A New Drug Study for Cats Shows Promise for Heart Disease in People

Early trials on a handful of felines result in an elimination of symptoms caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease that can bring about sudden death.

The results of a small drug trial on cats suffering from a type of heart disease offer a glimmer of hope for felines and could help people as well.

Researchers with the University of California (UC), Davis veterinary program have reported promising early results treating hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) with a drug called MYK-461.

HCM is the most typical form of heart disease in cats, affecting one in seven felines. It thickens the animal's ventricle walls and harms proper heart function, often with fatal consequences. Cats that have it could experience blood clots, congestive heart failure and sudden death.

One in 500 humans have HCM, which can occur at any age. They can inherit it, develop it with age or in conjunction with high blood pressure, or develop it from unknown causes. Some people with the disease show no symptoms at all and can live normally. For others, though, symptoms such as chest pain and fatigue progressively worsen. In a small number of cases, people can succumb to sudden death if they have HCM, even healthy athletes.

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In the small trial, which the researchers called a "proof of concept," the scientists used MYK-461 on five cats suffering from HCM and found that the drug eliminated left-ventricle obstruction in all five. The team has documented its findings in a study in the journal PLOS ONE.

"The positive result in these five cats shows that MYK-461 is viable for use in cats as a possible option to halt or slow the progression of HCM," said study lead Joshua Stern, chief of the cardiology service at the UC Davis veterinary hospital, in a statement.

The same drug had similar results when used on mice, the researchers noted.

Currently, only the symptoms of HCM are addressed, and no therapy has yet been shown capable of altering the disease's course. The UC Davis team wants to run larger-scale clinical trials on MYK-461 soon.

"There has been little to no progress in advancing the treatment of HCM in humans or animals for many years," Stern said. "This study brings new hope for cats and people."

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