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Clot-busting drug will save lives


Australian researchers have developed a new clot-busting drug that can treat heart attack and stroke patients without the associated high risk of bleeding – a complication that prevents thousands of stroke and heart attack victims from receiving potentially life-saving treatment each year.

Researchers from Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute fused an existing blood clot-busting drug to a human antibody that binds to platelets – cell fragments that help clot blood.

Lead researcher Dr Christoph Hagemeyer said while clot-busting drugs are not new, the targeted drug can offer a safer alternative with fewer side effects for people suffering a heart attack or stroke.

“This new drug targets the site of the clot, not the whole circulatory system, which allows the drug to be given at a low dose,” Dr Hagemeyer said. “But it’s also very effective at delivering a high concentration directly at the clot site, without increasing the side effects such as bleeding.”

The drug, which was tested on mice, started working after 10 minutes, with the clot completely removed after 40 minutes, and with no elevated bleeding time.

Dr Hagemeyer said he was confident the drug would work in humans because the clot-busting drug used had already been deemed safe, and the antibody was made from a human template.

“The current clot-busting drugs are already effective, but they have adverse effects and can be very dangerous for some people,” Dr Hagemeyer said.

“Currently many patients, particularly older people or people taking certain medications, are excluded from receiving a clot-busting drug, because of the high risk of bleeding.

“Our discovery means that when this new drug is fully developed, all patients will be able to be treated more safely, and more people will be eligible for this life-saving treatment.”

Chief Medical Advisor of the Heart Foundation Professor James Tatoulis told The Age the research was a breakthrough that could make clot-busting treatments safer for everyone, while also opening them up to people who cannot presently receive them.

“It may have relevance for up to 15,000 to 20,000 people in Australia per year, and particularly those who are vulnerable to the bleeding side effects,” Professor Tatoulis said.

The research was funded by the National Heart Foundation of Australia, National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Research Council.

The research was published in the US journal Circulation Research.

Kirsty Waterford