Autopsies reveal how meth hurts the heart

August 01, 2019

BOSTON, Aug. 1, 2019 -- Use of the illegal stimulant methamphetamine causes build-up of tough protein fibers in heart muscle, which may help explain the development of enlarged hearts and heart failure in users, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Basic Cardiovascular Sciences 2019 Scientific Sessions.

Methamphetamine, also known as meth, is an extremely addictive and commonly abused stimulant drug, with 1.6 million Americans reporting using the drug in 2017.

Previous autopsy reports of some meth users have documented injury to heart cells, scarring of heart muscle and enlargement of the heart. The current studies were designed to systematically compare autopsy results in meth users and non-users and look for the mechanisms by which the drug might create heart problems.

"Our goal is to discover a fundamental mechanism of methamphetamine toxicity in order to find a way to treat heart muscle diseases associated with illicit methamphetamine use," said Md. Shenuarin Bhuiyan, Ph.D., senior author of the study and assistant professor in the department of pathology and translational pathobiology at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-Shreveport.

Researchers used heart samples obtained at autopsy from 32 chronic meth users (mostly Caucasian men, average age 38 years) who died from meth overdose or from gunshot wounds, hanging, blunt force injury, stab wounds or sudden heart or lung problems. These were compared with samples from five non-substance users who also died suddenly from gunshot, hanging, blunt force injury or blood clots in the lungs. Meth used was established by medical history and the results of toxicology reports.

In comparison to samples from non-users, samples from the heart's main pumping chamber (left ventricle) in meth users showed:

Increased deposits of collagen (stiff protein fibers) around the blood vessels.

Accumulation of collagen throughout the spaces between heart muscle cells. "Regardless of the cause of death, we found methamphetamine has profound harmful effects on the cardiovascular system and results in irreversible damage to the heart, raising the risk of a heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest and heart failure," said Chowdhury S. Abdullah, Ph.D., co-lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Bhuiyan's laboratory. "Rehabilitation centers for methamphetamine users should routinely monitor heart function and look for signs of heart failure, since early detection of heart problems could prevent further deterioration of the heart muscle. Monitoring should continue even after people have quit using the drug."

The researchers found similarly increased collagen deposits in mice exposed to meth compared to those who were not. The studies on mice also indicated that methamphetamine may lead to structural changes in heart muscle by inhibiting a specific receptor in the heart, suggesting a possible mechanism to prevent meth-induced heart damage in the future.

The study is limited by using only autopsy samples, so researchers could not determine how the structural differences they documented in methamphetamine users might specifically affect blood tests and heart function.

"We need to further study cardiac function and biochemical blood parameters in methamphetamine users and compare them to those in other substance users and in non-substance users," Bhuiyan said.
-end-
Co-authors are Richa Aishwarya, B.S., co-lead author; Shafiul Alam, Ph.D; Mahboob Morshed, Ph.D; Gopi K Kolluru, Ph.D.; James Traylor, M.D; Sumitra Miriyala, Ph.D.; Manikandan Panchatcharam, Ph.D.; Matthew D. Wollard, Ph.D.; Nicholas E. Goeders, Ph.D.; Xioa-Hong Lu, M.D., Ph.D; Paari S. Dominic, M.D.; Christopher G. Kevil, Ph.D.; A. Wayne Orr, Ph.D.; Norman R. Harris, Ph.D.; and Felicity N.E. Gavins, Ph.D. Author disclosures are on the abstract.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-Shreveport Malcolm Feist Cardiovascular Research Grant provided funding for the study.

Additional Resources:

Available multimedia is on the right column of the release link - https://newsroom.heart.org/news/autopsies-reveal-how-meth-hurts-the-heart?preview=25d56f87f65edd7055154377b2c35d1e

Concerns about heart health amid the opioid, meth epidemic

Heart failure in methamphetamine users: could this be the next epidemic among vets?

Follow AHA/ASA news on Twitter @HeartNews #BCVS19

Statements and conclusions of study authors that are presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect association policy or position. The association makes no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at https://www.heart.org/en/about-us/aha-financial-information.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public's health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

American Heart Association

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.