Australian scientists say L-carnitine, a naturally occurring amino acid, could help heal injured heart muscles.
L-carnitine is found naturally in red meats and dairy products and is used as a nutritional supplement that enables one to shed fat and also improve one's exercise performance.
A research team from Australia's Charles Sturt University (CSU) and China's Taishan Medical College point out their findings hold out hopes of improved treatment for victims of heart attacks.
The collaborative study, led by CSU Professor of Clinical Pharmacology, Lexin Wang involved the study of almost 100 patients between November 2005 and December 2006, who were admitted to Liaocheng People's Hospital, a major teaching hospital, and the Clinical School of Taishan Medical College, both in China's Shandong Province.
All the patients underwent percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), commonly known as coronary angioplasty, within 24 hours of the onset of their chest pain. Divided into two groups, one received L-carnitine intravenously while the other received none as is the current treatment after a PCI.
"While angioplasty is a very effective treatment for heart attack by opening up blocked coronary arteries, there are injuries to the heart muscle occurring in some patients when the blocked arteries are re-opened. Some patients still develop heart failure, arrhythmias or cardiac arrest after apparently successful angioplasty," said Professor Wang.
"We have shown with this study that L-carnitine diminishes the injuries associated with angioplasty and therefore helps to prevent the adverse effects from the catheter treatment and ultimately improve overall outcomes for patients."
"What L-carnitine does to skeletal muscle also seems to help with the preservation of cardiac muscles from injuries caused by a reduction in blood flow" said the CSU academic.
"L-carnitine is potentially a very effective adjunct treatment to angioplasty. There is now a need for larger clinical trials to investigate the effect of L-carnitine on cardiac events following a PCI," Professor Wang said.