American Heart Association Journal Report: Gene Therapy Findings Updated: Treatment Used In Patients With Blocked Leg Vessels

DALLAS, March 31 -- A gene therapy approach to circumvent leg blood vessels obstructed by atherosclerosis that was reported last fall at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions has been successfully extended to a larger group of patients.

The research findings on this treatment, called therapeutic angiogenesis, are reported in today's Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The treatment, used to grow new blood vessels to bypass obstructions of blood flow in the legs of people with critical limb ischemia, was devised and is being evaluated by Jeffery Isner, M.D., at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston.

Critical limb ischemia occurs when the blood circulation in the individual's legs has become obstructed by atherosclerosis, the same disease process that creates the fat-filled plaques that clog coronary arteries, the blood vessels feeding the heart.

Isner, senior author of the Circulation paper, presented findings on the use of the gene for human vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) on eight patients with critical limb ischemia at the AHA conference last November. The paper reports on these eight patients.

Since submitting the paper, he has treated a total of 29 patients and in the process found two other unexpected results of the therapy.

Patients with premature atherosclerosis -- an inflammatory disease of the blood vessels of the legs which usually strikes young men -- respond well to the gene therapy. Isner says this finding is intriguing since these patients have generally been considered to be unresponsive to any therapy.

In addition, patients with sensory neuropathy -- acute loss of feeling in the feet -- have also benefited from the gene therapy. "This is surprising since a sensory neuropathy secondary to reduced blood flow to the feet, has traditionally been considered irreversible," says Isner, professor of medicine a

Contact: Brian Henry
American Heart Association

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