The team wanted to study calcium leaks more closely, namely because the calcium leaks that can contribute to heart failure can also happen in the brain. Specifically, calcium moves through the heart in a channel that isn’t able to close properly during heart failure. This results in calcium leaking through the channel, meaning that calcium isn’t helping the heart the way it should be.
Knowing this, researchers wanted to observe calcium leaks in the brain to study their impact.
In a mouse model of heart failure, they saw that calcium leaks in the brain’s neurons did, indeed, lead to cognitive impairment. Similarly, in the brains of people who had died from heart failure, the team saw those same leaky calcium channels.
And while more research needs to be done to better understand this connection between heart failure, cognition, and calcium leaks, the team highlights two possible explanations: One, that calcium leaks activate enzymes which prompt a reaction seen in people with Alzheimer’s, and two, that calcium leaks cause abnormalities in brain neurons.
The good news, the team is now working on a drug to “plug” these calcium leaks, not just in the heart, but in the brain as well. It’s still going through clinical trials, but the researchers hope it will offer a novel solution to the problem of leaking calcium.