Garlic oil agent may release compounds to protect the heart, as an agent in the oil can help in various situations including heart attack, surgery or as a treatment for heart failures, researchers say.

An agent found in processed garlic, diallyl trisulfide may be a more stable alternative to unstable and volatile compound hydrogen sulfide gas which provides heart protection by reducing inflammation and cell death.

The garlic oil study by researchers at Emory University School of Medicine is being presented today at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions conference.

The researchers found that doctors could use diallyl trisulfide in situations of heart attack, during cardiac surgery, or as a treatment for heart failure.

"We are now performing studies with orally active drugs that release hydrogen sulfide," says David Lefer, PhD, professor of surgery at Emory University School of Medicine. He is also the director of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Research Laboratory at Emory University Hospital.

"This could avoid the need to inject sulfide-delivery drugs outside of an emergency situation, he said."

In an animal study researchers simulated a heart attack by blocking the coronary arteries of mice for 45 minutes. They also gave diallyl sulfide just before blood flow was restored. The agent reduced the proportion of damaged heart tissue in the area at risk by 61 percent, compared to untreated animals.

"We see that diallyl sulfide can temporarily turn down the function of mitochondria, preserving them and lowering the production of reactive oxygen species,” said Benjamin Predmore, postdoctoral fellow who is working with Lefer.

Additional data on diallyl trisulfide in a mouse model of heart failure is being presented by a member of Lefer's team, postdoctoral fellow Kazuhisa Kondo. Kondo has found that diallyl sulfide twice daily, given after aortic constriction, could reduce heart enlargement.