GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- A team of University of Florida researchers has used gene therapy to develop a tiny biological machine that could one day be injected into heart attack-prone patients to recognize and stop new heart attacks.
The UF team used a harmless virus to deliver a combination of genes to animal heart tissue that protected the tissue from heart attacks, according to an article in the February issue of Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association. The virus sensed when the heart tissue began to experience hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation, and switched on the protective genes, which prevented the damage and scarring, called ischemia, that usually results.
It may take years, but UF researchers say the technique of using such vigilant vectors to transmit gene switches could be translated into treatments for a host of other disorders as well, such as diabetes and stroke.
The concept is that we give an IV injection, and although the vector goes everywhere in the body, it only works in the heart or other targeted organ or tissue said Ian Phillips, the studys principal investigator and a professor and chairman emeritus of the UF College of Medicines department of physiology. It just waits there until the right moment arrives to help the person.
Other researchers have used so-called antisense genes to prevent high blood pressure. The UF team applied the same concept to heart attacks, said Phillips, who also is an associate vice president of research and graduate programs at UF.
One out of every five people, or nearly 62 million Americans, suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. It has been the No. 1 killer of Americans nearly every year since 1900. At least 12.6 million of those suffer from coronary heart disease, the type of cardiovascular disease the UF research addresses.