UC First in U.S. to Study Relaxin for Heart Failure

CINCINNATI—Medical researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) are the first to enroll a patient in a U.S. clinical trial designed to test the effectiveness and safety of the drug Relaxin for treating heart failure symptoms.


Relaxin is produced by the biopharmaceutical company Corthera Inc., (formerly BAS Medical), and is a naturally occurring hormone that helps the human body regulate kidney function and blood pressure.


Heart failure is a chronic condition occurring when the heart’s pumping action is impaired. Weakening of the heart as a result of heart failure can lead to fatigue and shortness of breath.


Clinical trials of Relaxin began outside of the US at the end of last year, but UC’s emergency medicine department and division of cardiovascular disease along with University Hospital’s Center for Emergency Care are the first to enroll a patient in the United States.


“It’s exciting to participate in the study of this cutting-edge therapy for heart failure, the only cardiovascular disease increasing in prevalence,” says Stephanie Dunlap, MD, associate professor and director of UC’s heart failure program. 


More than 5 million Americans are living with heart failure and 550,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the American Heart Association. 


If this new therapy is successful Dunlap says it could lead to lower national health care costs by preventing hospitalizations and decreasing the length of hospital stays.


Patients with symptoms of heart failure who come to the emergency room at University Hospital will be given the option to enroll in the study of Relaxin. 


Because acute heart failure treatment most often begins in the emergency room, the study approach from onset to discharge is essential, explains Sean Collins, MD, a UC assistant professor of emergency medicine.  “Most importantly, we expect that if we alleviate heart failure symptoms while minimizing concurrent kidney problems, we should improve patient care,” Collins says. 


Dunlap and Collins have no financial interest in Corthera Inc., the sponsor of the Relaxin study.


In addition to heart failure, Relaxin is being evaluated in clinical trials for preeclampsia (high blood pressure) in pregnant women. 


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