American Heart Association Announces Top 10 Research Advances For 1998 -- Gene Therapy Among The List

DALLAS, Dec 30 -- Gene therapy to grow new blood vessels to the heart, strong confirmation that "superaspirin" IIb/IIIa receptor blocker drugs prevent blood clots, the importance of inflammation throughout the blood in cardiovascular disease, and a study on the deadly effects of smoking fewer than 10 cigarettes a day are among the top 10 research advances in heart disease and stroke during 1998, says Valentin Fuster, M.D., Ph.D., president of the American Heart Association. The list, first created in 1996, recognizes achievements in basic and clinical research that may have the greatest impact in improving the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, the nation's No.1 killer.

1. Gene therapy to create a "natural" bypass to circumvent plaque obstructions in the heart's blood vessels
In the next century many people with heart disease may be routinely treated with a genetically engineered therapy that induces the growth of new blood vessels to and from the heart. These new vessels would help restore blood flow to the hearts of people whose arteries are obstructed by fat-laden plaque. By impeding blood flow, these fatty obstructions can cause severe chest pain, heart attacks and strokes. Gene therapy may become an adjunct to other therapies for heart disease, which now include low saturated fat diets, exercise, smoking cessation, and, if appropriate, medications such as cholesterol-lowering drugs and the surgical procedures of cardiac bypass surgery and angioplasty. Gene therapy to create natural bypasses is described in research published this year in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. This research was also presented at the 71st Scientific Sessions, AHA's largest medical conference, in November. "At the American Heart Association's meeting in 1997, scientists described very preliminary research findings that unlocked the door to using gene therapy for heart disease," says Fuster. "This past year, researchers op

Contact: Cathy Yarbrough
American Heart Association

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