Dr. Baker believes this discovery may lead to diagnostic tests and therapies that physicians can use to prevent and treat heart attacks. Additionally, the research suggests that probiotics may be able to protect the heart in patients undergoing heart surgery and angioplasty.
“Our discovery is a revolutionary milestone in the prevention and treatment of heart attacks,” said Dr. Baker. “The biochemical link between intestinal bacteria, their metabolites, and injury to the heart will reduce the risk of death from a heart attack. Adding probiotics will ultimately improve the overall cardiovascular health of the human population.”
To make this discovery, Dr. Baker and his colleagues conducted experiments on rats. The first group was fed a standard diet, the second was treated with the antibiotic vancomycin, and the third group was fed a probiotic supplement that contains Lactobacillus plantarum, a bacterium that suppresses the production of leptin.
The group treated with the antibiotic had decreased levels of leptin (a protein hormone that plays a key role in appetite and metabolism), which resulted in smaller heart attacks than the group that received no treatments, and improved recovery of mechanical function as compared to the group fed a standard diet. The group that received the probiotics also had decreased leptin levels, which resulted in smaller heart attacks and greater recovery as well.
“Knowing how individual bacteria influence the heart will create another dimension of personalized medicine, where the flow of information between the bacteria in the intestines and the heart can lead to vastly improved diagnostics and therapeutics,” said Dr. Baker.
Other authors of the paper are Vy Lam, PhD; Jidong Su, MD; Stacy Koprowski; Anna Hsu; James Tweddell, MD; Parvaneh Rafiee, PhD; Garrett J. Gross, PhD; and Nita H. Salzman, MD, PhD
Medical College of Wisconsin