How to Treat a Broken-Heart (Syndrome)?

broken-heart syndrome treatment
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Researchers at Monash University have made a significant breakthrough in uncovering a potential treatment for the broken-heart syndrome.

For the first time, researchers have discovered a promising treatment for broken-heart syndrome. Led by Professor Sam El-Osta, the team at Monash Central Clinical School used mouse models to test a drug called Suberanilohydroxamic acid, or SAHA. The pre-clinical study is available in the journal Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy.

We show for the first time a drug that shows preventative and therapeutic benefit is important to a healthy heart. The drug not only slows cardiac injury but also reverses, the damage caused to the stressed heart

Professor Sam El-Osta, lead researcher

Named after an octopus trap, Takotsubo syndrome (TS), or the broken-heart syndrome, is a temporary heart condition that mostly affects women. More than 90% of the cases occur in women aged 58 to 75 years. It is usually brought on by stressful or emotional events. Previous research also suggests a link between stress-related brain activity and the development of TS. Symptoms resemble that of a heart attack: shortness of breath, chest pain and an irregular heart rate. However, unlike a heart attack, TS is not caused by a blockage of arteries. Instead, a surge of hormones causes a weakening of the cardiac muscles and an enlargement of the left ventricle.

Although the condition often reverses on its own and rarely results in death, about 20% of patients end up developing heart failure. Other complications can also develop such as rupture of the left ventricle, cardiogenic shock, and a complete atrioventricular block. Currently, there is no standard treatment for the broken-heart syndrome.

SAHA Reverses the Damage

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) have currently approved SAHA as a cancer treatment. The drug works by regulating the acetylation/deacetylation (Ac/Dc) index when in turn helps gene expression. In the past, the drug has also exhibited cardioprotective benefits. Therefore, the team of researchers tested these benefits in a pre-clinical model of the broken-heart syndrome.

This pre-clinical study describes a new standard in preventative and therapeutic potential using a cardioprotective drug that targets genes in the heart

Professor Sam El-Osta, lead researcher

In the mouse models, SAHA helped target genes involved in cardiac remodelling. According to Professor Sam El-Osta, the drug not only treated the cardiac injury but also reversed the damage caused by the condition.


Ishant Khurana et al, SAHA attenuates Takotsubo-like myocardial injury by targeting an epigenetic Ac/Dc axis, Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41392-021-00546-y


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