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Gene therapy tool would target free radicals

New method would make the most of the balance between the good and bad of free radicals

4:25pm, September 26, 2008

Gene therapy has been touted as a possible way to cure genetic diseases, but new research suggests that it could also fight the wear and tear that leads to cardiovascular diseases.

An excess of free radicals can cause damage that often contributes to heart disease and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). But some kinds of free radicals also benefit cells by serving as signaling molecules that relay information as part of the cells’ normal operation.

To work within this delicate balance, researchers in Finland have developed a way to insert into human cells free radical–fighting genes that only get switched on when free radical concentrations are high. That way, the genes could stave off the worst effects of free radicals without inhibiting the molecules’ useful functions, the researchers report in the September Gene Therapy.

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