The biochemical pharmacology of renin inhibitors: Implications for translational medicine in hypertension, diabetic nephropathy and heart failure: Expectations and reality

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Graphical abstractRenin, the rate-limiting enzyme in activation of the RAAS, has turned out to also be a ligand to a protein termed the renin/prorenin receptor, which binds renin and prorenin.The renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) plays a dominant role in the pathophysiology of hypertension, Diabetes mellitus (DM), chronic kidney disease (CKD) and chronic heart failure (CHF). Therefore, drugs that block key components of the RAAS such as ACE inhibitors (ACEi) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) have gained wide clinical use for these indications. Despite progress, the morbidity and mortality of patients treated with ACEi or ARBs remain high. Small molecules that directly inhibit renin (DRI) and are orally active have also been developed and one such drug, aliskiren, was introduced into clinical use for treatment of hypertension in 2007. Further clinical trials aimed to expand the therapeutic use of aliskiren are in progress for CKD-DM and CHF. In this review we analyze and review the translational medicine prospects of aliskiren in respect to the biochemical pharmacology of the RAAS, the marketed RAAS modulators and the new emerging science regarding the role of prorenin, renin and renin receptors in cardiovascular biology and disease. The information already gained with aliskiren, raises questions regarding the advantages of DRIs as monotherapy compared to marketed ACEis and ARBs, their potential added value in combination with other RAAS modulators and other unproven benefits in relation to prorenin and renin receptor biology. This review will also indicate basic and clinical research needs that are critical to determine whether DRIs can provide meaningful added medical benefits over contemporary medicines that regulate the RAAS, and the need to identify patients that are more likely to benefit from DRIs and any possible long term adverse effects.

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