British scientists are working on a pioneering experiment to cure heart disease – by using the toxic chemicals found in car exhaust fumes.
Professor Ian Megson, 44, and his team are working on the use of toxic chemicals carbon monoxide and nitric oxide to widen blood vessels and prevent blood clots.
Prof Megson said releasing the normally poisonous toxins into the heart in miniscule amounts blocks the body’s ability to clot and relaxes arteries, making them wider and allowing more blood to pass through.
The treatment is hoped to benefit patients suffering from heart attacks and strokes and was developed by fine-tuning machines used to measure car exhaust emissions in garages.
The experiments, which aim to successfully deliver the gases and measure their impact, are being carried out by chemists at St Andrews University and Prof Megson’s team at the University of Highlands and Islands (UHI) using pig hearts.
Prof Megson, who has worked at UHI for six years, said: ‘We are the first to do this.
‘We are using chemical amounts one million times smaller than that released in car exhaust fumes, so very tiny quantities, which when delivered to a specific area can have a beneficial impact on the patient.
‘It is at a very early stage in development but has huge potential. There are a lot of heart patients out there who could benefit from this.’
A team of scientists at St Andrews will start by building pocket filled molecules called ‘metal-organic frameworks’.