Heart attacks are a "systemic disease"

Liver, spleen and other organs are also affected by a myocardial infarction
Heart attacks are a life-threatening event, but the results of a recent study by scientists from MedUni Vienna are not to be considered as an isolated consideration of heart problems. The acute myocardial infarction is a "systemic" disease, which has an effect on the whole organism.

To date, the causes and consequences of a heart attack have been mainly focused on the damage to the heart and impaired heart function. But this consideration could be far too short. The new research results of the research team led by Hendrik Jan Ankersmit and Michael Mildner at the Department of Thoracic Surgery at the University Clinics for Surgery and Dermatology at MedUni Vienna show that there is also a reaction in other organs such as the liver and spleen. The researchers have published their study in the specialist magazine "Oncotarget".

In the case of a heart attack, numerous organ systems are involved, which is why the infarction should be regarded as a systemic disease.(Picture: psdesign1 / fotolia.com)

Monocausal Approaches Unsuitable
According to the scientists, "mostly with monocausal approaches, without holistic approach attempts were made to understand molecular and cellular processes after a heart attack( caused by a circulation disorder)."was very little known about the effects on the tissue surrounding the infarction center and other organs. The now published study has demonstrated in a large animal model relevant for humans that thousands of genes are involved in a heart attack.

Nearly 9,000 genes involved in myocardial infarction
"The myocardial infarction changed the expression of nearly 9,000 genes in the heart but also of 900 in the liver and around 350 in the spleen tissue within 24 hours after infarction," the scientists report. In addition, the transcription factor Klf4( a protein that is important for the activation of many other genes) has been given a significant role here, the researchers continued. The findings from the large animal model could also be confirmed by histological studies of human autopsy material. The study was conducted by the PhD student Matthias Zimmermann under the direction of Hendrik Jan Ankersmit and Michael Mildner.

More about the topic:
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  • New study: sleep disorders significantly increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes

Numerous organ systems involved
According to the researchers, the central finding of the current study is that myocardial ischemia,the heart attack, does not end with the injured heart muscle. In fact, the spectrum of the affected organs is much larger and many suggest that numerous organ systems are involved in the coordination of the response of the organism to the infarction."We have thus shown that the tunnel vision, which is aimed solely at the heart, has to be thought through in a heart attack," said Zimmermann. The myocardial infarction is nothing isolated but the whole organism reacts. For the first time, the current study describes what a myocardial infarction looks like in its entirety, which greatly contributes to the system-biologic understanding of the symptom image, adds Hendrik Jan Ankersmit.

Although the new findings do not call into question the current acute therapy for a heart attack, they open the discussion "whether a future therapy should not be systemic and should be applied in several places in the organism," the scientists conclude.(fp)

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