Background: Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH) remains a therapeutic challenge, and the search continues for more effective drugs and drug combinations. We recently reported that deletion of the vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) gene caused the spontaneous expression of a PH phenotype that was fully corrected by VIP. The objectives of this investigation were to answer the questions: 1) Can VIP protect against PH in other experimental models? and 2) Does combining VIP with an endothelin (ET) receptor antagonist bosentan enhance its efficacy?
Methods: Within 3 weeks of a single injection of monocrotaline (MCT, s.c.) in Sprague Dawley rats, PAH developed, manifested by pulmonary vascular remodeling, lung inflammation, RV hypertrophy, and death within the next 2 weeks. MCT-injected animals were either untreated, treated with bosentan (p.o.) alone, with VIP (i.p.) alone, or with both together. We selected this particular combination upon finding that VIP down-regulates endothelin receptor expression which is further suppressed by bosentan. Therapeutic outcomes were compared as to hemodynamics, pulmonary vascular pathology, and survival.
Results: Treatment with VIP, every other day for 3 weeks, begun on the same day as MCT, almost totally prevented PAH pathology, and eliminated mortality for 45 days. Begun 3 weeks after MCT, however, VIP only partially reversed PAH pathology, though more effectively than bosentan. Combined therapy with both drugs fully reversed the pathology, while preventing mortality for at least 45 days.
Conclusions: 1) VIP completely prevented and significantly reversed MCT-induced PAH; 2) VIP was more effective than bosentan, probably because it targets a wider range of pro-remodeling pathways; and 3) combination therapy with VIP plus bosentan was more effective than either drug alone, probably because both drugs synergistically suppressed ET-ET receptor pathway.