Common Antidepressant May Also Fix Ailing Hearts, Study Finds

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How do you mend a broken heart? One unexpected method could involve a drug devised to treat depression, researchers reported Wednesday.

Paroxetine, known to many as Paxil, has been found to improve heart function in laboratory mice — even reversing heart damage — more effectively than beta blockers, the current standard of care for heart failure, according to a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The tests centered on a protein called GRK2, which is typically found at elevated levels in failing human hearts. Researchers at Temple University School of Medicine found that paroxetine blocked GRK2 protein in the diseased hearts of lab mice.

"The results support repurposing the antidepressant, already approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and using it as the basis for a new class of GRK2 inhibitors for treating heart failure," the team wrote.

In the United States, 5 million people have been diagnosed with heart failure. About half of patients who develop heart failure die within five years of their diagnosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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-- Bill Briggs

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