Beta-blocker carvedilol may be best for heart patients

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

New research shows that not all beta-blockers are equal, and some might actually harm the heart. Findings published in journal Circulation Research, shows that beta-blockers, drugs prescribed for treating heart disease, provide the least benefit when they only target beta receptors. Carvedilol is unique because it is a beta and alpha blocker, and may be best for survival among heart patients.

The study highlights how the growth of cardiac fibroblasts, induced by alpha-adrenergic receptor signaling, causes eventual heart damage. Drugs that only target beta receptors promote the growth of cardiac fibroblasts that in turn can lead to further heart damage. The findings suggest that using carvedilol that mediates the growth of cardiac fibroblast, in conjunction with ACE inhibitors, another class of drugs that reduce blood pressure and workload of the heart, may be best for heart patients.

Heart patients have high levels of catecholamines – hormones that stimulate the heart and eventually can lead to heart failure. An example of a catecholamine is adrenalin that can stress the heart, but initially serves to improve the pumping efficiency of the heart.


Beta-blockers have been used as a mainstay for treating heart disease for decades. Graduate student and study co-author David Cervantes and Kevin Xiang, a professor of molecular and integrative physiology at the University of Illinois, who led the current study, says until now an understanding of the molecular consequences of beta blockers has not been completely understood.

"I think this is really good stuff," Xiang says. "It's a surprise project. It's not what we initially intended looking into. But it's a very nice, elegant study and a very beautiful cellular mechanism. It definitely will help people along the way to understand how to further manipulate this system. Beta blockers are still the most commonly used drug for heart disease.” The findings show that carvedilol, because it provides both beta and alpha blockade, may be best for improving survival among heart patients, and for preventing future heart failure in individuals with heart disease.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign