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Potential of the Cardiovascular Drug Levosimendan in the Management of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: An Overview of a Working Hypothesis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Ammar Al-Chalabi, Leo M.A. Heunks, Zoltán Papp, Piero Pollesello

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-399
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology
Volume74
Issue number5
DOIs
Published1 Nov 2019

King's Authors

Abstract

Levosimendan is a calcium sensitizer that promotes myocyte contractility through its calcium-dependent interaction with cardiac troponin C. Administered intravenously, it has been used for nearly 2 decades to treat acute and advanced heart failure and to support the heart function in various therapy settings characterized by low cardiac output. Effects of levosimendan on noncardiac muscle suggest a possible new application in the treatment of people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neuromuscular disorder characterized by progressive weakness, and eventual paralysis. Previous attempts to improve the muscle response in ALS patients and thereby maintain respiratory function and delay progression of disability have produced some mixed results. Continuing this line of investigation, levosimendan has been shown to enhance in vitro the contractility of the diaphragm muscle fibers of non-ALS patients and to improve in vivo diaphragm neuromuscular efficiency in healthy subjects. Possible positive effects on respiratory function in people with ALS were seen in an exploratory phase 2 study, and a phase 3 clinical trial is now underway to evaluate the potential benefit of an oral form of levosimendan on both respiratory and overall functions in patients with ALS. Here, we will review the various known pharmacologic effects of levosimendan, considering their relevance to people living with ALS.

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