Gene Therapy for UK Heart Failure Patients
Patients with severe heart failure are to be treated with gene therapy for the first time in Britain.Earlier clinical trials have suggested the treatment could reverse damaging changes inside cardiac cells that weaken the muscle and reduce the ability of the heart to pump blood.
The condition affects up to 1,000,000 people in the UK.
Doctors backed by the British Heart Foundation will give 100 patients an infusion of a harmless virus that has been genetically engineered to carry an extra gene, called SERCA2a.
The virus infects cardiac cells. Once inside, the gene becomes activated and makes a protein crucial to normal beating of the heart.
Dr Alexander Lyon, consultant cardiologist at The Royal Brompton Hospital, is leading the Cupid 2 trial. He said: “When the heart muscle is injured it activates a series of compensatory changes, but over time fatigue sets in which results in the natural version of this gene switching off. “When the gene is repaired it produces more of the functional protein and the problem is reversed.”
The first patients will be given the treatment in the next three to six weeks at hospitals in London and Glasgow.
They will be tracked and compared to another group of study volunteers who will receive a dummy treatment.
A previous pilot study in the United States found the treatment dramatically reduced emergency hospitalisations and deaths.
The 39 patients given the gene are still in a stable condition after three years.
Professor Sian Harding, head of the British Heart Foundation’s Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Imperial College London, whose team developed the therapy, said: “It’s been a painstaking, 20-year process to find the right gene and make a treatment that works. “But we’re thrilled to be working with cardiologists to set up human trials that could help people living with heart failure.”