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Cardiothoracic Surgery Research Lab Finds That Garlic Oil Could Deliver Protection to Heart

November 2011

David Lefer, PhD, and thoracic surgery postdoctoral fellow Benjamin Predmore presented "The Novel Hydrogen Sulfide Donor Diallyl Trisulfide Protects Against Ischemia Reperfusion Injury by Inhibition of Mitochondrial Respiration" at the recent American Heart Association Scientific Sessions conference in Orlando. The study found that diallyl trisulfide ― a potent-smelling component of garlic oil ― may help release protective compounds to the heart after heart attack, during cardiac surgery, or as a treatment for heart failure.

At low concentrations, hydrogen sulfide gas has been found to protect the heart from damage. However, this unstable and volatile compound has been difficult to deliver as therapy.

Dr. Lefer and his team at the Cardiothoracic Surgery Research Laboratory located at Emory University Hospital Midtown have turned to diallyl trisulfide, a garlic oil component, as a way to deliver the benefits of hydrogen sulfide to the heart. Their findings suggest that doctors could use diallyl trisulfide in many of the situations where researchers have proposed using hydrogen sulfide.

"We are now performing studies with orally active drugs that release hydrogen sulfide, one of which is diallyl trisulfide," says Dr. Lefer. "This could avoid the need to inject sulfide-delivery drugs outside of an emergency situation."

Working with Dr. Lefer, Dr. Predmore blocked the coronary arteries of mice for 45 minutes, simulating a heart attack, and gave them diallyl sulfide just before blood flow was restored. The compound reduced the proportion of damaged heart tissue in the area at risk by 61 percent, compared with untreated animals.

"Interruption of oxygen and blood flow damages mitochondria, and loss of mitochondrial integrity can lead to cell death," says Dr. Predmore. "We see that diallyl sulfide can temporarily turn down the function of mitochondria, preserving them and lowering the production of reactive oxygen species."