NEW YORK -- Heart muscles can be brought back to life and even strengthened after heart attacks through a new form of gene therapy that combines three specific genes injected during heart surgery for rats, says researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College, Baylor College of Medicine and Stony Brook University Medical Center in a report that appears online in the Journals of the American Heart Association.
The effect is enhanced when combined with three forms of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a gene that helps restore oxygen supply to tissues when blood circulation is poor, consequentially reducing the amount of scar tissue by half when compared to animals who did not receive the gene.
After the initial gene transfer, the rats received the cocktail of transcription factor genes called GMT, an inactive material that binds specific DNA sequences and starts to transform the information into a protein.
Since blood supply is cut off to the heart during a heart attack resulting in death of the heart muscle, the genes can now reprogram scar tissue into functioning muscle cells to fix the repercussions of heart attacks.
Though this gene therapy has only been proven effective on smaller hearts at this point in time, there are plans to further research and prove the promise of this treatment to minimize heart damage, says Dr. Todd K. Rosengart, chair of the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine.