"Smart" Gene Therapy Limits Heart Attack Damage

Quick use of a form of "smart" gene therapy can help protect against damage caused by heart attack. A report on the therapy appears in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The therapy uses a therapeutic gene combined with a genetic sensor that detects and responds to oxygen deprivation in heart tissue caused by reduced blood flow resulting from heart attack or coronary artery disease. When oxygen levels drop, the genetic sensor switches on the therapeutic gene, which protects the heart. This treatment may also prove effective in other conditions -- such as stroke, trauma and sepsis -- where tissue can be damaged by loss of blood supply, according to the study. In this study, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Duke University Medical Center tested the smart gene therapy on rats. They found it protected the rats' hearts against much of the damage that can weaken the heart and cause it to fail. It's the first successful demonstration of a therapeutic gene with a built-in sensor that's able to detect and respond immediately to a health problem, the researchers said.

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