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William Chilian, Ph.D.

Old Drug, New Treatment for Women’s Heart Disease

Most cardiologists don’t know how to treat a disease of the tiny blood vessels in the heart that can increase a woman’s risk of developing heart failure.

William Chilian, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Integrative Medical Sciences, believes that modifying an existing drug to increase coronary vasodilation may provide a solution. As one of three recipients of the inaugural NEOMED faculty researcher grants awarded by the Research, Entrepreneurship, Discovery and Innovation Zone (REDIzone®) at NEOMED, Dr. Chilian received $10,000 to help him seek that answer.

It’s research that could be life-changing for the women facing this currently untreatable condition.

Dr. Chilian is the director of the Heart and Blood Vessel Research Focus Area, one of six research focus areas at NEOMED. Dr. Chilian has research projects currently funded by the National Institutes of Health and by philanthropic donations.  His work includes collaborating with other researchers, both regionally and in other parts of the world (Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China; University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands). At NEOMED, Dr. Chilian is involved in the education of medical students, in addition to mentoring junior faculty, post-doctoral fellows and graduate students.

The research supported by the new REDIzone award is directed at developing a therapy for a newly named condition termed Ischemia with No Coronary Artery disease (INOCA). This disease is a condition of the tiny blood vessels in the heart that do not provide the heart with adequate blood flow and oxygen. INOCA occurs primarily in women, and about one-third of all women with Ischemic Heart Disease have INOCA. The occurrence of INOCA appears to increase the risk for women to develop heart failure. Moreover, cardiologists do not know how to treat this disease — and this is the unmet need addressed by Dr. Chilian’s work.

Retooling for a new treatment

Chromonar is an old drug that was once used to treat ischemic heart disease but is no longer in use.  It can increase the diameter of the blood vessels, which improves blood flow to the heart. The unique feature of chromonar is that it is specific for blood vessels in the heart, so it has minimal off-target effects. However, the drug is limited by a short half-life and poor oral bioavailability (incomplete absorption by the body when taken orally).

The goal of Dr. Chilian’s project, titled Chemical Modification of Chromonar to Enhance Coronary Vasodilation, is to chemically modify the chromonar to make it more stable and extend its biological effects — potentially leading to a treatment for INOCA, the heart disease in women.

Learn more about Dr. Chilian