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For Failing Hearts: Gene therapy stops decline in animals

Tests in hamsters have raised hopes for creating a gene therapy to stop the common downward spiral of chronic heart failure.

What distinguishes the proposed treatment is a novel version of a calcium-regulating gene plus an improved way of getting that gene into heart cells, says Kenneth Chien of the University of California, San Diego. In a laboratory breed of hamsters that commonly develops progressive heart failure, the treatment arrested the decline for the 7 months that the experiment ran, Chien and his colleagues report in the August Nature Medicine.

If testing continues to go well, Chien says, he hopes to design within months a version of the therapy to test in people. Also, he speculates that the new delivery system might work for other genes. "This opens the door," Chien says.

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