Dr. Letizia Amadori, a senior research scientist involved in the study, highlighted the potential of saracatinib as an effective therapy when standard statin treatment fails to alleviate inflammation. Although statins are commonly prescribed to lower harmful fats in the bloodstream, many patients continue to experience persistent inflammation, increasing their risk of heart attacks. The causes of this chronic immune response are not yet fully understood, and current anti-inflammatory treatments often yield limited results.
To investigate saracatinib's potential, the researchers analyzed blood samples from individuals with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease who were already undergoing statin therapy, comparing them with samples from healthy donors. By examining thousands of genes, including those involved in inflammation and cytokine production, the team identified saracatinib as a candidate capable of reversing the expression of target genes responsible for inflammation.
Further tests conducted on human cells, diseased tissues, and animal models revealed that saracatinib inhibited the activity of genes associated with producing inflammatory proteins. Additionally, the drug increased the expression of genes involved in removing plaque deposits from arteries. In animal experiments, saracatinib significantly reduced plaque-based inflammation in rabbits and decreased inflammation-associated cells in plaques and plaque deposits in mice.
Dr. Chiara Giannarelli, the senior author of the study, emphasized the potential of repurposing existing drugs to address various inflammatory diseases. This approach offers a cost-effective and efficient path to pharmaceutical development since these drugs have already undergone safety testing.
While the results are promising, Dr. Giannarelli emphasizes the need for clinical testing to determine the drug's effectiveness in patients. Moving forward, the research team plans to apply the same approach to explore potential treatments for other inflammatory conditions linked to atherosclerosis, such as rheumatic arthritis and type 2 diabetes.