UK-based researchers have led the development of a 'breakthrough' antibody-based injection which they claim has the potential to limit the devastating consequences of heart attacks and strokes.

Scientists from the University of Leicester leading an international team have discovered an enzyme - known as Mannan Binding Lectin-Associated Serine Protease-2 (MASP-2) - that plays a key role in the lectin pathway, which causes the potentially devastating inflammatory tissue response following temporary loss of blood supply.

This inflammatory response can cause serious damage to cells as the body effectively begins to attack it's own oxygen deprived tissues, and is partially responsible for the morbidity and mortality heart attack and strokes.

But researchers think they have found a way around the problem by developing an antibody-based injection to neutralise this enzyme and thereby allow cells to return to normal without inflammatory effects.

They claim that a single antibody injection in animals - which can be given hours after an ischaemic event - has been shown to disrupt the molecular process that leads to tissue and organ destruction, "resulting in significantly less damage and markedly improved outcomes".

“This is a fascinating new achievement in the search for novel treatments to significantly reduce the tissue damage and impaired organ function that occur following ischaemia in widespread and serious conditions such as heart attacks and strokes,” said lead researcher Professor Willhelm Schwaeble, commenting on the finding. 

Applications in transplants?

Furthermore, he said "this new potential therapy was also shown in animals to significantly improve outcomes of transplant surgery and may be applicable to any surgical procedure where tissue viability is at risk due to temporary interruption of blood flow".

The University's commercial partner, US group Omeros Corporation, holds exclusive worldwide intellectual property rights to the MASP-2 protein, all therapeutic antibodies targeting MASP-2 and all methods for treating complement-mediated disorders by inhibiting MASP-2, and has already begun scaling up of production of the antibody for use in clinical trials.

It is anticipated that the first clinical trials evaluating the antibody in heart attack patients will be conducted in the Leicester Biomedical Research Unit , at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, the researchers said.