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A new class of drug could be used to treat a wide range of conditions from painful periods to brain haemorrhages.
Vaptans target a hormone system involved in the control of blood flow and water retention in the body.
The drugs can be taken by mouth or injection and work by interfering with the hormone vasopressin.
They act as “antagonists” to block receptors – sensitive sites on cell surfaces – that respond to vasopressin and enable it to function.
Various subclasses of the drug have been developed or are in development. One, known as relcovaptan, has shown positive results in the treatment of painful periods, Raynaud’s disease, which causes loss of blood in the fingertips, and tocolysis – premature labour leading to premature birth.
A second vaptans subclass includes the drugs mozavaptan, lixivaptan, satavaptan and tolvaptan. These drugs induce water loss without depleting the body of mineral salts, which often occurs with diuretics.
The drugs are being developed to treat a number of conditions, including kidney failure, kidney damage related to diabetes, cirrhosis and depression.
Preliminary work has also been carried out on the use of vaptans for treating glaucoma, Meniere’s disease – a disorder affecting balance – brain haemorrhage and small-cell cancer.
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