Aims: Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) is increasingly common but there is currently no established pharmacological therapy. We hypothesized that ORM-11035, a novel specific Na+/Ca2+ exchanger (NCX) inhibitor, improves cardiac function and remodelling independent of effects on arterial blood pressure in a model of cardiorenal HFpEF.
Methods and results: Rats were subjected to subtotal nephrectomy (NXT) or sham operation. Eight weeks after intervention, treatment for 16 weeks with ORM-11035 (1 mg/kg body weight) or vehicle was initiated. At 24 weeks, blood pressure measurements, echocardiography and pressure–volume loops were performed. Contractile function, Ca2+ transients and NCX-mediated Ca2+ extrusion were measured in isolated ventricular cardiomyocytes. NXT rats (untreated) showed a HFpEF phenotype with left ventricular (LV) hypertrophy, LV end-diastolic pressure (LVEDP) elevation, increased brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) levels, preserved ejection fraction and pulmonary congestion. In cardiomyocytes from untreated NXT rats, early relaxation was prolonged and NCX-mediated Ca2+ extrusion was decreased. Chronic treatment with ORM-11035 significantly reduced LV hypertrophy and cardiac remodelling without lowering systolic blood pressure. LVEDP [14 ± 3 vs. 9 ± 2 mmHg; NXT (n = 12) vs. NXT + ORM (n = 12); P = 0.0002] and BNP levels [71 ± 12 vs. 49 ± 11 pg/mL; NXT (n = 12) vs. NXT + ORM (n = 12); P < 0.0001] were reduced after ORM treatment. LV cardiomyocytes from ORM-treated rats showed improved active relaxation and diastolic cytosolic Ca2+ decay as well as restored NCX-mediated Ca2+ removal, indicating NCX modulation with ORM-11035 as a promising target in the treatment of HFpEF.
Conclusion: Chronic inhibition of NCX with ORM-11035 significantly attenuated cardiac remodelling and diastolic dysfunction without lowering systemic blood pressure in this model of HFpEF. Therefore, long-term treatment with selective NCX inhibitors such as ORM-11035 should be evaluated further in the treatment of heart failure.