New findings: Heart attack can affect the brain
Researchers have found that a heart attack not only causes inflammation of the heart muscle, but also an inflammatory response in the brain. The effects of heart disease on brain function will have to be examined in more detail in the future.
Do not look at heart attack in isolation
Around 300,000 people in Germany suffer a heart attack every year. From a medical point of view, the serious illness should not be viewed in isolation - myocardial infarction is a "systemic" illness that has consequences for the entire organism and also results in reactions in other organs such as the liver and spleen. This was shown in a recently published study by Austrian scientists. "With this, we demonstrated that the tunnel gaze directed at the heart alone must be reconsidered in the event of a heart attack," explained one of the study authors. Researchers at the Hannover Medical School (MHH) have now also found that this isolated view is wrong. They found that a heart attack can also damage the brain.
Inflammatory response in the brain
An otherwise uncomplicated heart attack can also affect the brain. Scientists at the Hannover Medical School (MHH) found this out.
Under the direction of Professor Dr. Frank Bengel, director of the MHH Clinic for Nuclear Medicine, was able to use state-of-the-art imaging techniques to show that a heart attack not only causes inflammation of the heart muscle, but also an inflammatory reaction in the brain (neuroinflammation).
The results have now been published in the journal "Journal of the American College of Cardiology".
Other organs do not seem to be affected equally
The inflammation of the heart muscle that occurs after a heart attack is said to contribute to healing. However, if the reaction is excessive, it leads to further damage and deterioration of the heart function (weak heart).
So far it has been assumed that this process is essentially limited to the heart. The results of the MHH researchers now show, however, that the brain is involved immediately after an infarction as well as in the event of a later weak heart.
This networking between heart and brain is probably mediated by the immune system. Other organs such as the liver or kidneys do not seem to be affected equally.
Effects of heart disease on brain function
"This close connection between the inflammation of the heart and brain is new and important because other studies have shown that an inflammatory reaction in the brain can promote memory disorders and the development of dementia," explains Professor Bengel.
The effects of heart disease on brain function must therefore be looked at in more detail in the future and included in the development of new treatments aimed at improving healing.
Professor Dr. Johann Bauersachs and Professor Dr. Kai Wollert from the MHH Clinic for Cardiology and Angiology supported the project. Both believe that in the future it will be possible to use anti-inflammatory drugs to not only have a beneficial effect on heart attack healing, but also on inflammation in the brain.
Analyze inflammation throughout the body at the same time
The key to the studies was non-invasive molecular imaging, which the MHH Clinic for Nuclear Medicine has successfully expanded and developed in recent years.
“With our techniques, biological mechanisms such as inflammation can be analyzed simultaneously in the whole body - including in the heart and brain. In addition, measurements can be repeated to describe the time course of changes in the same organism, ”reports Professor Bengel.
The researchers used positron emission tomography (PET), with which they can measure the exact distribution of very small amounts of short-lived radioactive substances in the body, known as tracers.
This makes the biological processes in which the tracers participate visible. PET can be used at the MHH in a special laboratory for research experiments, but also in the clinical PET center for the care of patients. (ad)