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Protein therapy could eliminate open heart surgery

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Heart Surgery

Researchers from Tel Aviv University have been experimenting to find a way to make cardiac bypass surgery a thing of the past. Dr. Britta Hardy of Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine had demonstrated how an injected protein might make blood vessels in the human heart regrow, eliminating the need for open heart surgery.

According to Dr. Hardy, patients could regrow blood vessels in as little as a few weeks rather than having cardiac bypass, or open heart surgery.

When blood supply to the heart is blocked by coronary artery disease, heart attack occurs, and the cells of the heart muscle die. The protein, injected directly into the muscles of the body allows blood vessels to regrow. The protein injection that could eliminate risky heart surgery by growing new blood vessels has already been used successfully in animal models when injected into the legs.

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Hardy says, "The biotechnology behind our human-based protein therapy is very complicated, but the goal is simple and the solution is straightforward. We intend to inject our drug locally to heal any oxygen-starved tissue. So far in animal models, we've seen no side effects and no inflammation following our injection of the drug into the legs. The growth of new blood vessels happens within a few weeks, showing improved blood circulation." The protein therapy would replace the need to bypass diseased blood vessels during open heart surgery.

The study was implemented to see if scientists could save legs of diabetic mice then applied to humans to prevent amputations from diseased blood vessels. According to Dr. Hardy, “Within a short time we saw the formation of capillaries and tiny blood vessels. After three weeks, they had grown and merged together with the rest of the circulatory system.” The next step followed - seeing if the protein could also grow new blood vessels to prevent heart attack and avoid the need for open heart surgery.

The protein can also be injected to protect patients with stents, used to open blocked arteries that supply blood flow to the heart. The drug acts like a coating to prevent stents from developing new clots that could cause a second heart attack. The protein could eliminate the need for heart patients who currently have to take expensive blood thinners that also carry risks.

The researcher says Phase 1 studies could be completed in as little as 2 years. Hardy says if the drug is going to work to regrow blood vessels the results are evident almost immediately. Because results happen soon, the researcher says the new therapy that could eliminate the need for open heart surgery might be commercially available soon.




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