A novel drug that breaks down collagen bonds in the body's blood vessels significantly decreases the stiffness of vessels in older people, according to a study conducted by National Institute on Aging (NIA) scientists and others. The finding suggests the medication could be a new treatment for high blood pressure, heart failure, and certain complications of diabetes. The drug, ALT-711, snips bonds or crosslinks created in the arteries and other tissues when glucose attaches to the protein collagen.
Crosslinks are cable-like structures that inhibit the natural flexibility of collagen strands. They tend to proliferate with age. Crosslinks appear to toughen tissues and may contribute to some of the deterioration associated with aging and diabetes, such as elevated systolic blood pressure, stiff arteries, and impaired kidney function.
The ability to reduce vascular stiffness could have a major influence on reducing deaths from heart disease. For the current study, investigators at nine U.S. clinical centers recruited 93 people over the age of 50 who showed evidence of vascular stiffening, including high systolic blood pressure and pulse pressure of at least 60 mm Hg.
The participants were randomly divided into two groups-those who received daily doses of ALT-711 and those who were given a placebo daily. After 56 days, arterial pulse pressure - the difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressures - was significantly reduced among those taking the drug compared to the placebo group.