Researchers from the the Monash University in Australia offer new hope to thousands of people who experience heart attacks and heart failure - one of the major causes of death worldwide.
They showed new insights into a specific protein belonging to the family of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs).
After successfully combining two molecules, they say they are a step closer to creating a brand new class of drug that is more targeted and could possess minimal side effects.
GPCRs play a role in virtually every biological process and most diseases, including, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes, neuropsychiatric disorder, inflammation and cancer, researchers said.
Almost half of all current medications available use GPCRs to achieve their therapeutic effect.
Current GPCR drugs work either by fully activating or completely blocking receptors, treating the protein like a simple "on-off" switch.
The new research discovered alternative recognition sites on GPCRs that can be targeted by drugs to fine-tune the behaviour of the protein, basically converting the "on-off" switch into a "dimmer switch".
"Correct dosage has been a serious challenge in clinical trials for A1 receptor drugs. The consequences are serious; a dosage that is too high can stop the heart from beating. Too low, and the drug fails to prevent cell damage. Getting this balance right has been a big problem," said researcher Peter Scammells.
The study focused on finding new ways to activate the protein, to achieve the beneficial effects (protection) without the side effects (slowing the heart), researchers
said. The study was published in the journal PNAS.