Probiotics do the heart good

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In case Jamie Lee Curtis’s Activia advertisements praising the health benefits of probiotics wasn’t enough, new research suggests that the live bacteria and yeast may one day aid in the treatment of pulmonary hypertension.

The study, presented at the American Heart Association's Council on Hypertension 2016 Scientific Sessions, aimed to find a way to make peptide Angiotensin-(1-7), or Ang-(1-7), more effective for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension. Used alone, it digests too quickly in the stomach, severely limiting its effectiveness.

"To overcome this obstacle, we genetically engineered strains of Lactobacillus, a probiotic bacteria, to express and secrete Ang-(1-7),” Colleen Cole Jeffrey, study author and graduate research assistant in the department of Physiology and Functional Genomics at the University of Florida in Gainesville, said in a statement. “And in an animal study, we tested whether oral feeding of these modified bacteria would effectively treat pulmonary hypertension."

The technique’s effectiveness was determined by measuring the thickness of the rat heart wall and the ability of the heart to contract, as well as the systolic blood pressure on the right side of the heart.

Animals in the probiotic group saw a 43 percent reduction in blood pressure, a 33 percent reduction in heart wall thickness and a significant improvement in heart contractility.

While only experimental, these findings suggest that probiotics can be modified to aid in the delivery and digestion of oral peptides.

"Certainly, there is still much more work to be done," Mohan Raizada, principal investigator of the study, said in a statement. "But if our animal data holds true in clinical trials, probiotic consumption, as well as the use of genetically-modified probiotics, may emerge as a novel therapeutic approach for pulmonary hypertension therapy either as a standalone treatment or in conjunction with other medical therapies."