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Heart Failure Patients Could Benefit From Genetic Test - Beta Blockers Work In Some Patients Only - May Determine Best Treatment

July 10th 2006

Heart Failure Patients Could Benefit From Genetic Test - Beta Blockers Work In Some Patients Only - May Determine Best Treatment


Scientists believe they can genetically test patients suffering from heart failure to determine which ones will benefit from beta-blockers.  Maryland researchers have identified a common genetic variation that could help determine whether a person with heart failure would benefit from the common drug. 

The study, involving 1040 heart failure patients over a four year period, compared beta-blocker to a placebo and found a 38 percent reduction in the death rate among patients who took the beta-blocker and who also had two copies of a genetic variant called arginine (Arg-389).  They also found that 34 percent of these patients had a reduction in the combined number of hospitalizations and deaths.


Lead researcher Stephen B. Liggett MD said “For the first time, we have a genetic test that will help guide us to the best treatment for individual patients with heart failure and provide what has been called personal medicine.  This personalized therapy, based on genes, gives us an opportunity to tailor therapy in a way that we really were never able to do before,”

Liggett is the principal investigator and professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of its cardiopulmonary genomics program.  He says the genetic variance occurs in the beta-1 adrenergic receptor, which is the target for beta-blockers. People either have the Arg variant or the Gly variant.

The researchers say the type of variant does not predispose a person to develop heart failure.  Beta-blockers reduce demand on the heart, slow the heart rate and prevent an irregular heartbeat. They block receptors in the heart that normally respond to adrenalin and cause the heart to pump stronger.


The heart’s impaired pumping function causes adrenalin to make the heart work harder.  The Beta-blockers allow the heart to get some relief from the overactive pumping, develop a normal cellular structure and shrink in size. 

The patients with the two copies of the Arg-389 variant had a greater response to an adrenaline-like compound called isoproterenol as well as bucindolol and several other drugs. 

Dr. Liggett is a consultant to ARCA Discovery of Denver. The company is in the process of filing a new drug application with the Food and Drug Administration for bucindolol, the Beta-blocker used in the study.

Heart failure affects nearly five million Americans, according to the Heart Failure Society of America. Less than 50 percent of patients live past five years after their initial diagnosis and less than 25 percent are alive at 10 years. The risks of heart failure include high blood pressure, a prior heart attack, abnormal heart valves and diabetes. In addition, a large number of patients have a form of heart failure called idiopathic cardiomyopathy, where no predisposing factor can be identified. 

The findings are published in the The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Best Syndication

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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                   Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:51 PM