Heart attacks occur in about 735,000 Americans every year. “Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As a young nurse working in the ER in the 1980s, I remember our first patients who received tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). They had to have had symptoms of a heart attack within a certain time requirement in order to receive the new clot-busting drug.
It was a pretty exciting time to see how this innovative therapy allowed the return of blood flow to the patient’s coronary arteries.
Cardiologist Dr. Harry Selker worked hard in those early years to come up with better ways to manage those patients and predict who would benefit from these types of cardiac interventional therapies.
Clot-busting medications offer the most benefit if given within early hours of a heart attack or stroke.
Selker and his research group developed an EKG predictive tool to help doctors determine whether patients would do better using tPA or having an angioplasty to open up occluded blood vessels.
Selker went on to become dean and principal Investigator of Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
Now Selker is interested in another therapy, a mixture that might prevent heart attacks from happening in the first place. While this treatment has been around for years and was successfully tested in animals, it has not shown the same success in humans.
The solution is a mixture of glucose, insulin and potassium, known by its chemical initials GIK. It is given intravenously to prevent blood clots from forming in the coronary arteries that feed the heart.
Selker reviewed the data from the human trials and felt that the methods used contributed to their lack of success, including giving the GIK too late for it to work.