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Carnitine's Growing Role in Health and Disease Prevention

  [ 157 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • April 12, 2004

Carnitine's Growing Role in Health and Disease Prevention Is Topic for NIH Conference GAITHERSBURG, Md., March 25 /PRNewswire/ --

The growing role of carnitine, an essential nutrient, in health and disease prevention was the topic of a special National Institutes of Health (NIH) conference held March 25-26 at the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD. Speakers at the conference, "Carnitine: the Science Behind a Conditionally Essential Nutrient," discussed the scientific body of knowledge that suggests that carnitine deficiency may be associated with a host of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular and end-stage renal disease, cancer, male infertility -- even aging.

NIH co-sponsors for the meeting are the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). Among the conference's speakers are Menotti Calvani, MD, director, Research and Development, Sigma Tau Pharmaceuticals, Rome, Italy; Eric Brass, PhD, professor of medicine, Center for Clinical Pharmacology, Harbor-UCL, Torrence, CA, and; William Hiatt, MD, Novartis Foundation professor, cardiovascular research, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver.

Brass will talk about the role of carnitine in sports medicine while Hiatt's area of expertise is peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Carnitine is a naturally occurring substance required in energy metabolism. It is comprised of two amino acids -- lysne and methionine. It is produced by the body but can also be found in meats and dairy products. Its role is to transport the long-chain fatty acids across the cell's inner mitochrondial membrane. Mitochrondia use fatty acids and glucose to produce energy.

Secondary carnitine deficiency is a rare metabolic disorder usually diagnosed at birth. However, primary carnitine deficiency, which is due to decreased synthesis of carnitine in the body or altered transport of carnitine across the cellular membrane, can occur in people of all ages. Carnitine levels also decrease with age.

According to Hiatt, who has conducted clinical research on carnitine's therapeutic value in peripheral arterial disease, "propionyl-levocarnitine may improve exercise capacity, as measured by distance walked on a treadmill, and also quality of life." Propionyl-levocarnitine is one form of the carnitine molecule and seems to be more effective for cardiovascular disease. Acetyl-levocarnitine appears to be more effective in the brain.

"In the last two years, we have witnessed a growing scientific interest in metabolomics, the science that can investigates the metabolic alterations present in chronic diseases," according to Calvani, whose company was among the first to invest in the pharmaceutical development of carnitine. Carnitor(R) (levocarnitine) is the prescription version of carnitine and is manufactured by Sigma-Tau. It was approved in 1985 for primary and secondary carnitine deficiency, and in 1999, received supplemental approval for carnitine deficiencies associated with late-stage renal disease.

The Sigma Tau Group, one of the top three pharmaceutical companies in Italy, is the worldwide leader for the development of carnitine derivatives in a variety of metabolic disorders. Headquartered in Gaithersburg, MD, the company specializes in orphan drugs and is committed to a mission of providing treatment for unmet medical needs.

SOURCE: Sigma Tau Group (via PR Newswire. This is a press release).

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