'Heart-healing virus' trial begins
Doctors at Imperial College, London, have created a virus that they hope can strengthen weakened hearts. In patients with damaged hearts, the muscle is too weak to effectively pump blood around the body--a condition often occurs after a patient has survived a heart attack.
After determining that heart failure patients often have low levels of the protein SERCA2a, the researchers genetically modified a virus that can produce protein in the heart and potentially strengthen it. The scientists will soon begin clinical trials involving 200 participants, to whom they will give the engineered virus via catheter.
This is the first ever attempt at gene therapy for heart failure, with the goal to target and reverse the molecular-level changes that occur during heart failure. Gene therapy was previously heralded as the next big thing in medicine, though reality has yet to match its potential. If this trial proves successful, it could open the door for future developments in the field.