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.
Some 4.5 million Americans a year find that their hearts are losing the pumping power that keeps blood flowing properly. Drugs can ease symptoms and slow the decline but can