Ancient Chinese secret? Exciting new research results announced by London's Imperial College indicate a compound found in bear bile could effectively treat abnormal heart rhythm in patients recovering from heart attacks.
The compound, Ursodeoxycholic Acid (UDCA), has been known to practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine for many centuries, and has been used to lower cholesterol and help dissolve gallstones. On the downside, demand for bear bile by today's greatly expanded population has put pressure on wild bears and has contributed to longstanding problems of poaching. Even worse, unknown numbers of bears suffer terribly in unregulated “bile farms".
Though the documentation of UDCA's beneficial properties once again confirms the efficacy of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM, for short), the added bonus is that the compound can be chemically synthesized in research laboratories without the need to bother bears for their bile.
UDCA has been shown to alter the electrical properties of myofibroblasts. These specialized cells are important for healing wounds and internal injuries but when they produce scar tissue in the heart, they can disrupt the electrical signals that prompt the heart to beat regularly. Until now, treatments used to prevent the development of abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia) in patients who have had heart attacks are often minimally effective.
“Our results from the lab suggest that UDCA could help the heart muscle conduct electrical signals more normally,” explained Dr. Julia Gorelik (above), lead author of the new study. “We're hoping to set up a clinical trial to test whether these results translate to patients with heart failure.” Let's hope these trials “bear” positive results! (via Canoe Health, Bear Necessity Korea, and Imperial College London)