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27 November 2020

Research challenges the reason why a new class of drugs benefits patients with heart failure

A new study provides insight into the mechanism of action of a new class of drugs recently discovered to be effective treatments for heart failure.


A recently published study from researchers in the School of Cardiovascular Medicine & Sciences has shed light on the mechanism of action of an exciting new class of drugs recently discovered to be effective treatments for heart failure: SGLT2 inhibitors.

In the past, SGLT2 inhibitors have been widely used to treat diabetes. Diabetologists quickly observed that their patients who also suffered from heart failure got better independent of whether their diabetes improved. However, since the target of these drugs is not present in the heart, it remained unclear as to exactly what else these drugs might do.

In this current study - which is funded by the British Heart Foundation - a team of researchers from King’s, led by Professor Michael Shattock, and a team from the University of Oxford, led by Professor Pawel Swietach, have comprehensively shown that SGLT2 inhibitors do not work via the proposed mechanism.

We urgently need better therapies to treat heart failure. Understanding how this class of drugs work in the heart is therefore really important. A better understanding of their mechanism may allow us to develop better therapies for this debilitating and deadly disease.

Professor Michael Shattock, Professor of Cellular Cardiology

Papers previously published in the last couple of years have claimed these drugs act on a cardiac protein called the Na/H exchange – a suggestion which received a great deal of attention; this new study shows conclusively that this is not the case. This is not how these drugs work in the heart.

More research if therefore needed to better understand and clarify how these class of drugs are operating and indeed why they improve symptoms of heart failure.

Science is not always about finding out what things do. Sometimes, it is equally important to find out what they don’t do!

Dr Yujin Chung, Research Fellow and lead author

In this story

Michael Shattock

Professor of Cellular Cardiology