Purpose of review: The natriuretic peptide (NP) system is primarily an endocrine system that maintains fluid and pressure homeostasis by modulating cardiac and renal function. The physiologic functions of the NP system in healthy humans and in patients with cardiovascular disease are not fully understood. NP levels are elevated in patients with heart failure (HF) and other cardiac diseases; measurement of NPs may be used in the clinical setting to aid diagnosis and prognosis. In addition, synthetic NPs such as nesiritide are available for use in management of patients with acutely decompensated congestive HF.
Recent findings: Not only do NPs modulate volume and pressure homeostasis, but they also exert important anti-proliferative, anti-fibrotic effects in the heart. Thus, NPs may prove useful for prevention of remodeling after myocardial infarction and in advanced HF. BNP is emerging as an important biomarker in patients with HF and other cardiovascular diseases, such as pulmonary hypertension and atherosclerotic vascular disease. Elevated NP levels may serve as an early warning system to help to identify patients at high risk for cardiac events. Recombinant human ANP (carperitide) and BNP (nesiritide) are useful for management of acutely decompensated HF; these drugs are also being investigated for myocardial and renal protection in the setting of cardiac surgery and for prevention of cardiac remodeling.
Summary: The clinical application of NPs is expanding rapidly. Recent basic science and clinical research findings continue to improve our understanding of the NP system and guide use of ANP and BNP as biomarkers and as therapeutic agents.