Harvard Heart Letter

Promising news about heart failure

Novel drug improves breathing and appears to extend life.

It may be hard to imagine that a drug derived from a hormone associated with pregnancy could improve the symptoms of heart failure, but that's what serelaxin appears to do. In clinical trials of people hospitalized with new onset of sudden (acute) heart failure, the drug significantly improved shortness of breath (a condition doctors call dyspnea), one of the most frightening and persistent symptoms of the disease. It also reduced organ damage caused by poor blood flow and reduced deaths.

How serelaxin works

Both men and women produce a hormone called relaxin. Just what it does in men is unclear, but it is thought to help sperm cells swim more easily in semen. In women, relaxin plays several roles during ovulation and pregnancy. As its name implies, relaxin has a relaxing effect, loosening the tissues in the female reproductive organs and pelvic ligaments to help prepare for childbirth. Serelaxin is a chemically engineered form of relaxin.

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