Research Update

NEW KNOWLEDGE ABOUT ‘SILENT’ HEART ATTACKS

Elsayed Z. Soliman, MD, and Zhu-Ming Zhang, MD, MPHNearly half of all heart attacks may be “silent,” and like those that cause chest pain or other warning signs, silent heart attacks increase the risk of dying from heart disease and other causes, according to research published this spring in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

The multi-institutional research team was led by 
Elsayed Z. Soliman, MD, and Zhu-Ming Zhang, MD, MPH, 
of Wake Forest Baptist.

A heart attack does not always have classic symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath and cold sweats. In fact, a heart attack can occur without symptoms and is called a silent heart attack (blood flow to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely).

“The outcome of a silent heart attack is as bad as a heart attack that is recognized while it is happening,” said Soliman, the study’s senior author and director of the epidemiological cardiology research center at Wake Forest Baptist. “And because patients don’t know they have had a silent heart attack, they may not receive the treatment they need to prevent another one.”

Researchers found that silent heart attacks:

  • Made up 45 percent of all heart attacks
  • Increased the chances of dying from heart disease by three times
  • Increased the chances of dying from all causes by 34 percent
  • Were more common in men but more likely to cause death in women.

The research earned widespread national media coverage, including from CNN, CBS and NBC. READ FULL RELEASE

ACUPUNCTURE REDUCES HOT FLASHES FOR HALF OF WOMEN, STUDY FINDS

Nancy Avis, PhDHot flashes—the bane of existence for many women during menopause—can be reduced in frequency by almost half for about 50 percent of women over eight weeks of acupuncture treatment, according to scientists at Wake Forest Baptist.

In a study published in September in the journal Menopause, scientists reported that about half the women in the study reduced the frequency of hot flashes, while half did not.

“Women bothered by hot flashes and night sweats may want to give acupuncture a try as a relatively low-cost, low-risk treatment,” said Nancy Avis, PhD, lead author of the study and professor of Public Health Sciences at Wake Forest School of Medicine. “Women will know pretty quickly if acupuncture will work for them. Women who had a reduction in their hot flashes saw a benefit beginning after about three to four weeks of weekly treatments.” READ FULL RELEASEpain compound

STUDY SHOWS COMBINATION DRUG THERAPY FOR ASTHMA PATIENTS IS SAFE

Stephen Peters, MD, PhDA post-marketing safety study—mandated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and led by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist—has shown that a combination drug therapy for the treatment of asthma is safe and effective.

The therapy tested consisted of a long-acting beta agonist, formoterol, added to an inhaled glucocorticoid, budesonide.

“Our study showed no significant increase in serious adverse events in the combination therapy,” said Stephen Peters, MD, PhD, professor of pulmonary, critical care, allergy and immunologic diseases at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the multicenter study.

“A large number of studies have shown that this type of combination therapy really helps asthma control and decreases symptoms. 
Our findings, in combination with results from another FDA-mandated safety study, are very reassuring to those of us who 
treat asthmatic patients.”

The study was published in September in the New England 
Journal of Medicine. READ FULL RELEASE

SCIENTISTS REPORT ON SAFE, NON-ADDICTIVE PAIN-KILLING COMPOUND IN ANIMAL MODEL

Since the isolation of morphine from opium in the 19th century, scientists have hoped to find a potent opioid analgesic that isn’t addictive and doesn’t cause respiratory arrest with increased doses.

Now scientists at Wake Forest Baptist report that in an animal 
model a novel pain-killing compound, BU08028, is not addictive 
and does not have adverse respiratory side effects like other opioids. The research findings were published online in August in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Based on our research, this compound has almost zero abuse potential and provides safe and effective pain relief,” said 
Mei-Chuan Ko, PhD, professor of physiology and pharmacology 
at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study. “This is 
a breakthrough for opioid medicinal chemistry that we hope 
in the future will translate into new and safer, non-addictive 
pain medications.” READ FULL RELEASE

MODEL OF TUMOR SPREADING MAY HELP DOCTORS PINPOINT BEST TREATMENT

Aleks Skardal, PhDAdvances in personalized medicine allow doctors to select the most promising drugs for certain types of malignant tumors. But Wake Forest Baptist researchers wondered whether, before initiating treatment, they could go a step further and use a mini-model of the human body to see how each patient’s actual tumor responds to the drugs and learn if and where the tumor is likely to spread.

That’s the idea behind a new invention by scientists at Wake Forest Baptist’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine. In the journal Biotechnology Bioengineering, the team reports on its “metastasis-on-a-chip” system believed to be one of the first laboratory models of cancer spreading from one 
3D tissue to another.

The research team is working to further develop the system in hopes that it can one day be used to quickly reveal the best way to treat an individual patient’s cancer.probe

“We believe the metastasis-on-a-chip system has potential for making meaningful advances in cancer investigation and drug discovery,” said Aleks Skardal, PhD, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of regenerative medicine. READ FULL RELEASE

SCIENTISTS PROVE FEASIBILITY OF ‘PRINTING’ REPLACEMENT TISSUE

Anthony Atala, MDUsing a sophisticated, custom-designed 3D printer, regenerative medicine scientists at Wake Forest Baptist have proved that it is feasible to print living tissue structures to replace injured or diseased tissue in patients.

Reporting in Nature Biotechnology, the scientists said they printed ear, bone and muscle structures. When implanted in animals, the structures matured into functional tissue and developed a system of blood vessels. Most important, these early results indicate that the structures have the right size, strength and function for use in humans.

“This novel tissue and organ printer is an important advance in our quest to make replacement tissue for patients,” said Anthony Atala, MD, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine and senior author of the study. “It can fabricate stable, human-scale tissue of any shape. With further development, this technology could potentially be used to print living tissue and organ structures for surgical implantation.” READ FULL RELEASE

NEW NANOTECHNOLOGY DETECTS BIOMARKERS OF CANCER

Wake Forest Baptist researchers have developed a new technology to detect disease biomarkers in the form of nucleic acids, the building blocks of all living organisms. The proof-of-concept study was published online in February 2016 in the journal Nano Letters.

“We envision this as a potential first-line, noninvasive diagnostic to detect anything from cancer to the Ebola virus,” said Adam R. Hall, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and lead author of the study. “Although we are certainly at the early stages of the technology, eventually we could perform the test using a few drops of blood from a simple finger prick.” READ FULL RELEASE

LOWERING BLOOD PRESSURE REDUCES RISK OF HEART DISEASE IN OLDER ADULTS WITHOUT INCREASING RISK OF FALLS

Jeff Williamson, MDIntensive therapies to reduce high blood pressure can cut the risk of heart disease in older adults without increasing the risk for falls, according to doctors at Wake Forest Baptist.

In the United States, 75 percent of people over age 75 have hypertension, which can lead to cardiovascular disease, a leading cause of disability, morbidity and death. Current guidelines have provided inconsistent recommendations regarding the optimal systolic blood pressure (SBP) treatment target in geriatric populations.

The latest findings from the National Institutes of Health’s Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) were published in June 
in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study, which focused on ambulatory adults 75 or older, showed that adjusting the amount or type of blood pressure medication to achieve a target systolic pressure of 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) reduced rates of cardiovascular events—heart attack, heart failure and stroke—by almost a third and the risk of death by almost a quarter, as compared to a target systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg.

“Some of the most vulnerable ambulatory people in the community who may suffer complications of high blood pressure can benefit from intensive blood pressure lowering and it is safe to do so,” said Jeff Williamson, MD, professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine and lead author of the study. READ FULL RELEASEolder adults