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First UK trials of gene therapy for heart failure

Gene therapy trial will add DNA directly to failing heart cells to hopefully correct genetic problems
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith

30th April 2013 - The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has today announced the launch of the first UK clinical trials of a gene therapy for patients with heart failure. If successful, the trials could give hope to some people living with the devastating effects of heart failure.

To mark the launch BHF Medical Director, Professor Peter Weissberg, says: "Whilst drugs can offer some relief, there is currently no way of restoring function to the heart for those suffering with heart failure. This early clinical study is the culmination of years of BHF funded laboratory research and offers real promise."

Heart failure

Heart failure is a serious condition caused by the heart failing to pump enough blood around the body at the right pressure. It usually occurs because the heart muscle has become too weak or stiff to work properly.

Heart failure does not mean the heart is about to stop working. It means it needs some support to do its job, usually in the form of medicines.

Until now there has been no hope of a cure but the BHF is hoping recent advances in regenerative medicine will mean repairing a damaged heart is a realistic goal.

The trials

The trials will use a gene therapy to tackle some of the changes that occur in the heart during heart failure. The therapy involves adding DNA directly to heart cells to correct a genetic problem in failing heart cells which can stop the heart from beating powerfully enough to pump blood round the body properly.

It's the first gene therapy to be used in patients with heart failure in the UK.

Professor Weissberg says: "Gene therapy is one of the new frontiers in heart science and is a great example of the cutting edge technologies that the BHF is using to fight heart failure."


Patients with heart failure are not able to enrol themselves onto the trials at the moment, instead doctors will select participants according to strict criteria and will contact patients directly if they are eligible. The first patients are due to receive the treatment in the next few weeks.

The trials are being led by Dr Alexander Lyon and Professor Sian Harding who are working with other leading doctors and researchers from Imperial College London, the Royal Brompton Hospital and several other hospitals across the UK and the world.

Reviewed on April 30, 2013

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