Study Is First Ever To Document Protein Therapy Induces Creation Of New Blood Vessels To The Human Heart

had stimulated the creation of a new vascular system, says Stegmann. Three months after the procedure, he and his colleagues examined angiograms -- X-ray images of the heart -- of both the treated and control (untreated) patients and found that no blockages had formed in the new vessels.

All of the patients who received the FGF-I three years ago are still alive. The scientists report that no negative side effects have been seen in the patients who received the FGF-I.

Elizabeth Nabel, M.D., an American Heart Association board member, has done extensive research in gene and recombinant protein therapy over the past 12 years. She says this new research is encouraging for cardiovascular surgeons.

"It's a very important therapy for patients who have blocked arteries that are not amenable to bypass," says Nabel, professor of internal medicine and physiology and chief, division of cardiology at the University of Michigan. "This is not to say that bypass should be abandoned, but this research shows angiogenesis is a powerful therapy to be used with bypass surgery."

The procedure is still experimental, but scientists say the use of FGF-I may particularly benefit patients whose blocked vessels cannot be treated by cardiac bypass operations.

"At the moment, this procedure could not replace conventional bypass surgery," says Stegmann. "The question remains to be answered whether FGF-I or other growth factors are able to treat occlusions of greater coronary vessels, but currently, this is not possible."

Scientists have used gene therapy to grow vessels in other parts of the body -- such as in the legs in order to improve the health of patients who have blockages in lower leg blood vessels -- but this is the first published account of the use of recombinant protein therapy to induce angiogenesis

Contact: Brian Henry
American Heart Association

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