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15 August 2014 07:56
The new therapy could help make hearts stronger
There is hope on offer to some heart patients following a pioneering gene therapy trial which could eventually replace heart transplants.
British scientists are trialling the therapy, which uses a corrective gene to help a person's heart beat more strongly, on patients from Harefield Hospital, London and Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire.
Each of the patients has a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) keeping them alive while they await a transplant. Sixteen patients will be chosen at random and given the gene therapy, while eight others will be given a placebo.
The first patient to be recruited for the trial is Lee Adams, a carpenter from Hertfordshire.
He spoke of his hope for the gene therapy to prove to be a "miracle cure" for himself and the other participants.
The technique sees a harmless virus injected into the blood, which carries the gene into the heart muscles. This aims to boost the levels of a protein called SERCA2a which helps to control the contraction of the heart.
Heart failure is when the organ is too weak to pump blood efficiently around the body.
It can follow a heart attack, but can also be triggered by alcohol or drug abuse, viral infections or damaged heart valves. There can also be an inherited aspect. People with a history of heart conditions can arrange specialist pre-existing medical travel insurance for peace of mind when travelling abroad.
Professor Sian Harding stressed that it is important to remember the therapy is not correcting any defective gene, but can help people no matter whether their heart failure was caused by lifestyle, environment or genetic predisposition.
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