Ghrelin and the Cardiovascular System

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Ghrelin is a small peptide released primarily from the stomach. It is a potent stimulator of growth hormone secretion from the pituitary gland and is well known for its regulation of metabolism and appetite. There is also a strong relationship between ghrelin and the cardiovascular system. Ghrelin receptors are present throughout the heart and vasculature and have been linked with molecular pathways, including, but not limited to, the regulation of intracellular calcium concentration, inhibition of proapoptotic cascades, and protection against oxidative damage. Ghrelin shows robust cardioprotective effects including enhancing endothelial and vascular function, preventing atherosclerosis, inhibiting sympathetic drive, and decreasing blood pressure. After myocardial infarction, exogenous administration of ghrelin preserves cardiac function, reduces the incidence of fatal arrhythmias, and attenuates apoptosis and ventricular remodeling, leading to improvements in heart failure. It ameliorates cachexia in end-stage congestive heart failure patients and has shown clinical benefit in pulmonary hypertension. Nonetheless, since ghrelin’s discovery is relatively recent, there remains a substantial amount of research needed to fully understand its clinical significance in cardiovascular disease.

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