'Smart Gene Therapy' Protects Against Damage from Heart Attack
Early intervention with a novel kind of "smart gene therapy" might effectively prevent the organ damage commonly suffered by heart attack victims, suggests a new animal study by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Duke University Medical Center. The therapy combines a therapeutic gene with a genetic "sensor" that recognizes and responds to the oxygen deprivation that follows the reduced blood flow, or ischemia, from coronary artery disease and heart attack.
As soon as the oxygen declines, the sensor turns on the therapeutic gene, thereby protecting the heart. In addition to its potential for patients with heart disease, the strategy might also prove useful for any condition in which tissues are susceptible to loss of blood supply, including stroke, shock, trauma and sepsis, the researchers said.
When administered to rat hearts several weeks before ischemia, the designer gene combination protected the heart from much of the damage that may weaken the organ and lead to failure, according to the researchers. Their report will appear in a forthcoming issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and in the journal's online edition the week of Aug. 2, 2004.