OBJECTIVES: We sought to assess the effects of heparin and the potential protective effects of trimetazidine (TMZ) on exercise performance, plasma nitric oxide (NO), endothelin-1 (ET-1) and free fatty acid (FFA) release in patients with stable coronary artery disease (CAD). BACKGROUND: Heparin has been shown to reduce the ischemic threshold in patients with CAD. Trimetazidine may affect myocardial substrate utilization by shifting energy production from FFA to glucose oxidation. METHODS: In four consecutive days, nine patients with CAD each received one of the following four regimens: 1) one tablet of placebo the evening before and at 8 AM and 4 PM on the day of the study, 10 ml of saline in a bolus 10 min before exercise, followed by an infusion of the same preparation; 2) placebo at the same times as in the first regimen, 5,000 IU of heparin 10 min before exercise, followed by 1,000 IU/h; 3) 20 mg TMZ at the same times as in the first regimen, 5,000 IU of heparin 10 min before exercise, followed by 1,000 IU/h; or 4) TMZ at the same times as in the first regimen, 10 ml of saline 10 min before exercise, followed by an infusion of the same preparation. RESULTS: During placebo (test 2), heparin reduced the time to 1-mm ST-segment depression and prolonged the recovery time, as compared with the results of test 1. When heparin was administered after TMZ (test 3), the time to 1-mm ST-segment depression and the recovery time were similar to those recorded during saline (test 1). Finally, compared with all study phases, TMZ during saline (test 4) prolonged the time to 1 mm. No changes in NO release were found, whereas ET-1 was decreased at peak exercise and during recovery, when the patients were receiving TMZ (tests 3 and 4). Free fatty acids increased after heparin, both with placebo and TMZ. CONCLUSIONS: In patients with CAD, heparin reduces the ischemic threshold. Trimetazidine reduces the effects of heparin, probably by inhibiting FFA oxidation and enhancing glucose metabolism. The concomitant novel observation of reduced ET-1 release is likely to be also dependent on TMZ-induced improvement of endothelial metabolism or reduction of myocardial ischemia.
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