According to researchers at the University of Aberdeen, the drug essentially "melts away" all of the fatty material known to ultimately cause heart attacks and strokes. The buildup of such material is known as "atherosclerosis." When a person suffers from atherosclerosis, fatty plaque sitting in their arteries will accumulate and expand until the affected artery has no more room to allow blood to travel.
Participating scientists realized what the drug could do when the tested mice "with set-in atherosclerosis" had far less fatty material in their arteries after taking the drug than when trials first began.
But the scientists found something even more surprising — trodusquemine is effective even in small amounts. The drug was just as effective in lowering plaque buildup if the subjects received just one or several doses.
Researchers found that the drug "completely reverses" the buildup of fatty materials by stopping an enzyme called PTP1B that is typically seen in people with diabetes or obesity and instead stimulating the AMPK protein that "mimics exercise," the study said.
"All humans have some level of atherosclerosis," Mirela Delibegovic and Dawn Thompson, who led the study, said in a statement. "As you age, you start to develop these fatty streaks inside your arteries. It is a big problem for people who are overweight or have underlying cardiovascular conditions."
"Trodusquemine has already been trialed for treatment of diabetes and breast cancer but this is the first time it has been used in models of atherosclerosis," the statement added.
The next step for the drug will be to begin trials in human patients "with developed atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease."
If all goes well, Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, says "the drug may prove even more useful than currently hoped for."
The $308,000 study to investigate the drug's effect on atherosclerosis was funded by the British Heart Foundation.