Which is the main molecular target responsible for the cardiovascular benefits in the EMPA-REG OUTCOME trial? A journey through the kidney, the heart and other interesting places

M Luconi, L Raimondi, A Di Franco, E Mannucci
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases: NMCD 2016, 26 (12): 1071-1078

BACKGROUND: The results of the EMPA-REG-OUTCOME trial on type 2 diabetic patients at high risk for prior cardiovascular events showed that empagliflozin produces a remarkable reduction in the rates of hospitalization for heart failure (35%), cardiovascular death (38%), and all-cause death (32%). This unexpected cardio-protective action cannot be accounted for by the improvement of "classical" cardiovascular risk factors.

AIMS: This review aims at summarizing current knowledge on the cardiovascular action of SGLT2 inhibitors and discuss the different hypotheses formulated to explain the results of the EMPA-REG-OUTCOME-study.

DATA SYNTHESIS: We discuss in detail the major cardiovascular outcomes of the study in the light of the potential systemic and myocardial mechanisms of action of the drug. In addition, we propose and speculate on a direct effect of empagliflozin on cardiomyocytes.

CONCLUSIONS: The available evidence is insufficient to establish any of the proposed mechanisms of cardiovascular action of empagliflozin. While awaiting for the results of ongoing clinical studies with other SGLT2 inhibitors, the most promising putative mechanisms still deserve to be confirmed with specifically designed, yet unavailable, pre-clinical studies.

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