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The Effects of Velvet Antler of Deer on Cardiac Functions of Rats with Heart Failure following Myocardial Infarction

Velvet antler of deer (VAD) is a precious traditional Chinese medication, warm in nature and sweet and salty in flavor, and is commonly used to treat various diseases by supplementing kidney Yang. According to TCM theories, kidney Yang deficiency can be presented in the symptoms including declining libido, soreness, or cold sensation in the knees and lumbar regions, spiritual fatigue, and so forth. Both clinical and animal studies have shown that VAD can promote the development of reproduction systems, relieve the pain of arthritis, nourish the neural cells, and so on [1]. These pharmacological effects provide empirical evidence for its role of tonifying kidney Yang.

Heart failure (HF) is a clinical syndrome which all types of heart diseases will eventually develop into. Evidence from epidemiological studies has demonstrated that the incidence of HF in Chinese adults was 0.9%: it reached 0.7% in males and 1.0% in females [2]. From the perspective of the traditional chinese medicine (TCM), the primary cause of HF is heart Yang deficiency that results from Qi inadequacy and blood stasis. According to the heart-kidney-related theory of TCM, heart Yang originates in kidney Yang, and therefore it is hypothesized that tonifying kidney Yang could be used to strengthen heart Yang and treat HF. Indeed, VAD has been reported to have protective effects on the damaged heart muscle cells in the animal models of myocardial infarction via various mechanisms, such as reducing the release of endothelin [3], promoting superoxide dismutase activities, and decreasing serum malondialdehyde levels [4], and increasing the levels of nitric oxide and calcitonin-gene-related peptide [5]. In addition, oral administration of VAD has been found to strengthen the pulse, increase blood pressure, and enhance heart sounds for chronic circulatory disorders accompanied by hypotension.

We did not observe the therapeutic effects of VAD in cardiac structural parameters, a finding in contrast to a study showing that chronic treatment with VAD could significantly reverse the enlargement of left ventricle caused by myocardial infarction [12]. The inconsistency may be due to that our study used VAD powder whereas the latter study used the extracts of VAD, which contains a higher proportion of active components. Our finding that four-week treatment of VAD showed differential therapeutic effects on cardiac structure and function suggests that the treatment period of four weeks may be not long enough to induce structural changes of the heart as measured by echocardiography. According to our observation, VAD treatment can also reverse myocardial fibrosis of HF (unpublished data), which may serve as the structural basis of functional changes induced by VAD.

In the current study, we used captopril as a positive control and found that VAD and captopril showed comparable effects in reversing changes in functional parameters and BNP levels in rats with heart failure. Although VAD is more expensive than captopril, it has edges over captopril for patients with heart failure accompanied with lower blood pressure given the hypotensive side effect of captopril.

In conclusion, the kidney Yang supplementing drug, VAD, shows comparable therapeutic effects with captopril for heart failure induced by myocardial infarction as revealed by functional parameter changes in echocardiography and serum BNP levels. These results provide evidence for the heart-kidney-related theory of TCM and demonstrate that heart failure due to heart Yang deficiency can be treated by strengthening kidney Yang. Therefore, VAD might be a potentially alternative and complementary medicine used in the treatment of heart failure.

from NIH PubMed

Velvet antler of deer (VAD) is a precious traditional Chinese medication, warm in nature and sweet and salty in flavor, and is commonly used to treat various diseases by supplementing kidney Yang. According to TCM theories, kidney Yang deficiency can be presented in the symptoms including declining libido, soreness, or cold sensation in the knees and lumbar regions, spiritual fatigue, and so forth. Both clinical and animal studies have shown that VAD can promote the development of reproduction systems, relieve the pain of arthritis, nourish the neural cells, and so on [1]. These pharmacological effects provide empirical evidence for its role of tonifying kidney Yang.

Heart failure (HF) is a clinical syndrome which all types of heart diseases will eventually develop into. Evidence from epidemiological studies has demonstrated that the incidence of HF in Chinese adults was 0.9%: it reached 0.7% in males and 1.0% in females [2]. From the perspective of the traditional chinese medicine (TCM), the primary cause of HF is heart Yang deficiency that results from Qi inadequacy and blood stasis. According to the heart-kidney-related theory of TCM, heart Yang originates in kidney Yang, and therefore it is hypothesized that tonifying kidney Yang could be used to strengthen heart Yang and treat HF. Indeed, VAD has been reported to have protective effects on the damaged heart muscle cells in the animal models of myocardial infarction via various mechanisms, such as reducing the release of endothelin [3], promoting superoxide dismutase activities, and decreasing serum malondialdehyde levels [4], and increasing the levels of nitric oxide and calcitonin-gene-related peptide [5]. In addition, oral administration of VAD has been found to strengthen the pulse, increase blood pressure, and enhance heart sounds for chronic circulatory disorders accompanied by hypotension [6]. However, to the best of our knowledge, the therapeutic effects of VAD on the heart failure have not been fully elucidated due to a lack of clinical and animal studies.

Left coronary artery ligation is one of the widely used animal models to mimic myocardial infarction and heart failure in patients [7]. Echocardiography and serum brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) levels are two commonly used indices to evaluate and diagnose heart failure [8]. To provide empirical evidence for VAD's clinical application in the treatment of heart diseases, in the current study, we investigated its therapeutic effects on heart failure following myocardial infarction with captopril as the positive control by evaluating echocardiographic parameters and serum BNP levels.

from NIH PMC

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