Role of prostacyclin in pulmonary hypertension
Mitchell, Jane A.
Wright, William R.
MacKenzie, Louise Susan
Prostacyclin is a powerful cardioprotective hormone released by the endothelium of all blood vessels. Prostacyclin exists in equilibrium with other vasoactive hormones and a disturbance in the balance of these factors leads to cardiovascular disease including pulmonary arterial hypertension. Since it’s discovery in the 1980s concerted efforts have been made to make the best therapeutic utility of prostacyclin, particularly in the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension. This has centred on working out the detailed pharmacology of prostacyclin and then synthesising new molecules based on its structure that are more stable or more easily tolerated. In addition, newer molecules have been developed that are not analogues of prostacyclin but that target the receptors that prostacyclin activates. Prostacyclin and related drugs have without doubt revolutionised the treatment and management of pulmonary arterial hypertension but are seriously limited by side effects within the systemic circulation. With the dawn of nanomedicine and targeted drug or stem cell delivery systems it will, in the very near future, be possible to make new formulations of prostacyclin that can evade the systemic circulation allowing for safe delivery to the pulmonary vessels. In this way, the full therapeutic potential of prostacyclin can be realised opening the possibility that pulmonary arterial hypertension will become, if not curable, a chronic manageable disease that is no longer fatal. This review discusses these and other issues relating to prostacyclin and its use in pulmonary arterial hypertension