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Animal study demonstrates carbon monoxide may help heart patients

BOSTON Carbon monoxide, the toxic gas generally associated with auto exhaust or faulty heating systems, may have a protective role in preventing the development of dangerous arteriosclerotic lesions that can clog blood vessels following balloon angioplasty or aortic transplantation.

The findings, which emerged from an animal study by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, appear in the February issue of the journal Nature Medicine.

Restenosis reclogging of the heart's arteries is a vexing problem for patients who have undergone balloon angioplasty for the treatment of coronary heart disease. The condition apparently develops as a result of the angioplasty itself, in which a balloon is inserted inside the artery in order to widen the clogged vessel. If, during the procedure, the cells lining the vessel are damaged, they may become inflamed and multiply, reblocking the artery. A similar problem can occur following heart transplantation, leading to chronic graft failure, the primary reason behind organ rejection.

"These situations develop when lesions appear in between two layers of cells the vessels' endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells," explains the study's senior author, Miguel Soares, Ph.D., of the Immunobiology Research Center at BIDMC and Instructor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School (HMS). "When this happens there is extensive proliferation of the smooth muscle cells and subsequent narrowing of the blood vessel. The net result is that blood flow is decreased and in some cases stopped altogether potentially leading to a heart attack or to organ rejection."

The paradoxical idea that the poisonous gas carbon monoxide (CO) might prevent this dangerous turn of events is rooted in animal studies co-authored by Soares and Fritz Bach, M.D., director of BIDMC's Immunobiology Research Center and Lewis Thomas Professor of Surgery at HMS. Their earlier fin
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Contact: Bonnie Prescott
bprescot@bidmc.harvard.edu
617-667-7306
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
23-Jan-2003


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