Greek doctor at the forefront of mitochondrial research


Greek doctor Dr Evangelos Michelakis is at the forefront of mitochondrial research at Alberta Medical University in Edmonton, Canada where he is co-head of a study aiming to fight Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH) by means of a new drug which targets mitochondria.

PAH is a disease of the lung blood vessels leading to heart failure and early death.

Dr Michelakis is a member of a research team at the University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada), and the Imperial College of Medicine (London, UK) that has been conducting a clinical trial on the effect of a new drug on PAH patients who are already taking approved medicine for their condition.

According to the team of researchers, the trial which is still at an early phase has produced promising results as they reported in this week’s issue of Science Translational Medicine. They maintained that the generic drug, Dichloroacetate (DCA), can reduce blood pressure in the lungs of PAH patients through the activation of mitochondria, namely the parts of cells responsible for energy production as well as the regulation of apoptosis, a process of cell self-destruction.

In PAH, mitochondria cannot function properly which leads to the overgrowth of the cells lining the lumen of lung vessels. This overgrowth is very much like that of cancer cells, which also suppress the function of mitochondria. This means that DCA could also be used for the treatment of cancer patients.

Talking to reporters, Dr Michelakis stressed the fact that the study was funded by public funds and donations and was not sponsored by a pharmaceutical company since DCA is a generic drug. This means that should future studies confirm their results and show a clear and definitive benefit of DCA in PAH, then DCA may become an affordable, cheap treatment available to all.

Dr Evangelos Michelakis, M.D., FACC, FAHA is Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Alberta, Pulmonary Hypertension Program, Dep. Director, Tomorrow’s Research Cardiovascular Health Professionals, and Senior Fellow and Founding Member, Pulmonary Vascular Research Institute. He earned his M.D. from the University of Patras in 1990. Following a research fellowship at the University of Texas in Galveston, he completed his Internal Medicine and Cardiology training at Yale University and the University of Minnesota.