October 1, 1999


FORT WORTH, Texas ó The combination of a natural nontoxic chemical compound in the body called pyruvate with adrenaline-like catecholamine drugs has been shown to improve the function of a failing heart, according to researchers at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. The research findings are reported in the October issue of the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology.

Catecholamine drugs are frequently used during cardiac surgery to stimulate the heartís function, yet use of these drugs carries considerable risk. Catecholamine drugs force the heart to consume excessive amounts of energy to help the heart pump. If the heartís energy supply is depleted, dangerous side effects can occur, including irregular heart beat, cardiac arrest and injury and death of heart tissue.

Robert T. Mallet, Ph.D., associate professor of integrative physiology and James L. Caffrey, Ph.D., professor of integrative physiology, both of the UNT Health Science Center, combined pyruvate with the drugs, which bolstered the effectiveness of the drugs and allowed lower, safer doses to be administered.

"The most valuable finding of this research is proving that pyruvate makes catecholamine drugs more effective, thereby lessening the dose of drug required to restore the heartís function," said Dr. Mallet. "Using a lower dosage avoids much of the risk involved with using catecholamine drugs, such as cardiac arrest. Instead when pyruvate is combined with the drugs, the heartís energy reserves are maintained, and at the same time the heartís ability to pump blood is greatly improved."

Pyruvate is readily consumed by the heartís cells to generate energy, and also acts as an antioxidant to neutralize harmful chemicals that contribute to heart failure. Dr. Mallet, who has studied the effects of pyruvate in heart for the past 13 years, was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute for this research.

Clinical work examining pyruvateís effects in a failing human heart has been conducted in Germany, based on Dr. Malletís initial pyruvate research. The German cardiologists found significant improvement in the human heartís function when pyruvate was administered.

Dr. Mallet will continue studying pyruvate and its favorable effects on the heart with funding provided by Tampa, Fla.-based MYTECH, INC. Clinical use of these research outcomes may be possible within five years.

Dr. Malletís research is just part of the reason for the increased health science center figures in the recent Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board report on Expenditures for Research and Other Sponsored Projects. The percentage of increase the UNT Health Science Center has experienced in Research & Development since 1995 is the highest in the state of Texas ó an increase of 62 percent. The average among the state is just under 20 percent, and the next highest after the UNT Health Science Center is at 37 percent.