A study has shown that long-acting opioids — such as sustained-release morphine and controlled-release oxycodone — for chronic pain relief increase the risk of death from cardiovascular and other causes. In the study, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the researchers compared long-acting opioid use to the use of anticonvulsants or antidepressants for chronic pain unrelated to cancer. They found that prescription opioid use was associated with more deaths. The deaths were mostly for reasons other than an unintentional overdose, and more than half of these were cardiovascular related. The researchers recommend that their findings be considered when evaluating the harms and benefits of pain treatment.
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Through a study funded in part by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, researchers gained new insights into the biological basis of single-cell mechanical homeostasis — the process by which a cell strives to maintain stability despite physical stressors on its surface. They found that on a single-cell level, mechanical homeostasis is driven by distinct regulation of activities involving the cytoskeleton, which gives shape and structure to cells. Also important was the regulation of structures called focal adhesions, which control the transmission of mechanical forces to the cells. The authors note that understanding single-cell mechanical homeostasis can provide critical insights into how cellular dysregulation can develop and lead to cardiovascular disease and other disorders.
Through a study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, researchers found that long-term exposure to high levels of air pollution is associated with the acceleration of atherosclerosis — the hardening of coronary arteries. The investigators have not yet identified the biological processes underlying the association, but note that the study supports the case for worldwide pollution reduction efforts to help prevent cardiovascular disease. The study used data from NHLBI’s Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) for analyses.
NHLBI Director Dr. Gary H. Gibbons spoke with radio host Tom Joyner about asthma during National Asthma Awareness Month. During the 5-minute interview for the Tom Joyner Morning Show, which reaches millions of listeners each week, Dr. Gibbons emphasized important points about asthma, including who it affects, what triggers the disease, and the importance of managing the disease better.
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health are reporting evidence in human studies that telomeres, protective caps on the end of chromosomes, can be altered by medical drugs, particularly sex hormones. They administered the sex hormone, danazol, to a group of study participants with disorders characterized by rapid shortening of telomeres. These disorders can lead to liver cirrhosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and bone marrow failure. To the surprise of the researchers, the treatment was associated with telomere lengthening. The sex hormone treatment also appeared to increase blood cell counts in many of the participants. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and partly funded by NHLBI.
A ventricular assist device designed for children may help young patients who live with severe heart failure, according to preliminary results reported at the 96th meeting of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery. The work, which took place in sheep, was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University say they have developed a virtual 3D heart model that can help predict the risk of heart arrhythmia and sudden cardiac arrest more accurately than standard invasive tools. The new imaging tool models the shape of the patient’s heart, how electrical waves move through it, and the impact of scar tissue. The virtual heart model could help some patients avoid unnecessary implantation of heart defibrillators, they say. The study appeared in Nature Communications and was partly funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
Researchers funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute found that mice deficient in the protein-like molecule, neurotensin, had significantly reduced fat absorption and were protected from obesity and insulin resistance associated with high-fat consumption. Through this and further tests, they concluded that neurotensin is directly linked to increased fat absorption and obesity. They suggest that the presence of the molecule might serve as an indicator of future obesity and might also be a potential target for prevention and treatment.
Through a study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, researchers found that a small molecule, referred to as LeXis, plays a critical role in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. LeXis is a type of RNA molecule, which in turn is similar to DNA. Lexis, however, does not play a role in heredity. Instead, the scientists found that it helps to inhibit the production of cholesterol and also aids in the removal of cholesterol from blood vessel walls. Through this study, researchers may be able to find a way to better treat and control high cholesterol levels in individuals.
Researchers have validated an automated all-optical platform for testing the impact of candidate drug compounds on cardiac cells, according to work supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The work could help speed the development of new drug treatments.