An animal study investigated the effects of administering the amino acid leucine in reversing the heart damage caused by third degree (full thickness) burns.

Serious burns affect the heart as well as the skin. Burns range from superficial–first degree burns–to fourth degree burns. First degree burns heal very well over about ten days, but fourth degree can lead to amputation and death. Third degree burns, or full thickness burns, extend right through the skin. These burns can also lead to amputation.

These serious burns affect the cardiovascular system, too. Burns affect the heart’s ability to produce vital proteins, which it needs in order to pump effectively.

Most burns are caused by fire and hot liquids. These are known as thermal burns, and include scalding. Scalding is caused by hot liquids or gases. Thermal burns are common injuries, particularly in children.

Researchers (CH Lang, N Deshpande, et al) from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, USA, developed an animal study into burn-induced heart injury and the amino acid leucine.

The researchers knew that leucine stimulates the initiation of protein in skeletal muscles. They hoped the leucine would also stimulate protein in cardiac muscles.

Leucine is an essential amino acid, which means we must get it from our food. It’s particularly important in promoting muscle growth.

Would leucine reverse the heart damage caused by third degree burns?

In the animal study, anaesthetized rats were given a 40% total body surface third degree scald burn. Some were given leucine after 24 hours. The leucine group was compared to a control group, and there was also a non-burn control group.

The hearts of the burned rats suffered damage. The necessary protein was not synthesized in their hearts. However, the hearts of the burn rats given leucine showed a reversal of this cardiac damage.

The study concluded that leucine supplementation could repair the heart defects caused by serious burn injuries.