Could exhaust fumes CURE heart disease Minute amounts of dangerous toxins 'can unblock clogged arteries'
Carbon monoxide and nitric oxide could widen blood vessels in tiny amounts
12:55 GMT, 1 August 2012
British scientists are working on a pioneering experiment to cure heart disease – by using the toxic chemicals found in car exhaust fumes.
Professor Ian Megson, 44, and his team are working on the use of toxic chemicals carbon monoxide and nitric oxide to widen blood vessels and prevent blood clots.
Prof Megson said releasing the normally poisonous toxins into the heart in miniscule amounts blocks the body’s ability to clot and relaxes arteries, making them wider and allowing more blood to pass through.
British scientists are measuring the impact of tiny quantities of exhaust emissions on pig hearts
The treatment is hoped to benefit patients suffering from heart attacks and strokes and was developed by fine-tuning machines used to measure car exhaust emissions in garages.
The experiments, which aim to successfully deliver the gases and measure their impact, are being carried out by chemists at St Andrews University and Prof Megson’s team at the University of Highlands and Islands (UHI) using pig hearts.
Prof Megson, who has worked at UHI for six years, said: 'We are the first to do this.
'We are using chemical amounts one million times smaller than that released in car exhaust fumes, so very tiny quantities, which when delivered to a specific area can have a beneficial impact on the patient.
'It is at a very early stage in development but has huge potential. There are a lot of heart patients out there who could benefit from this.'
A team of scientists at St Andrews will start by building pocket filled molecules called ‘metal-organic frameworks’.
The frameworks will then be filled with particles of carbon monoxide, nitric oxide and hydrogen sulphide, found in rotting food.
In three months’ time the filled frameworks will be handed to Prof Megson and his team at the Centre for Health Science, in Inverness, part of UHI, who will try and figure out a way of delivering them into the heart successfully and measuring their impact.
The frameworks are designed to release their gas cargo into the body upon contact with the correct bodily fluid.
The experiments will be aimed at patients with on-going heart problems and stents, metal inserts that widen closed or blocked arteries.
Prof Megson added: 'Carbon monoxide and nitric oxide are found in car exhaust fumes but they are also found in the body in very small amounts.
'Each of the gases has a beneficial effect and we believe that delivering them all at the same time could have an even greater impact and we think the organic frameworks are a way to do that.
'Gases are very difficult to handle so it has taken a long time to find a way of trapping them and that’s what we hope to achieve.
'These things take a long time to get from bench to bedside due to the safety aspects, but patients with heart disease can look at this with some optimism.'
The frameworks could eventually be used as an alternative to blood thinning medication, which is currently administered to prevent clots in heart patients.
Scientists also think the frameworks could be used to coat the end of catheters to prevent infections, meaning catheters will last longer and need to be replaced less often.
Prof Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation said: 'In large amounts these gases are harmful, but in small doses they actually have a beneficial effect.'
The scientists have been granted 288,000 from the British Heart Foundation to fund three years’ research.