Journal Archive > 2002 > March

DNA cocktails

Using genetics to treat heart disease

One in four Americans suffers from cardiovascular disease. It is the nation's leading killer, striking without regard to sex or race.

A dozen of the nation's top researchers in genetics, genetic testing, gene transfer, gene therapy and gene-based medicines presented their work at a conference on "Physiological Genomics of Cardiovascular Disease," sponsored by the American Physiological Society February 20-23 in San Francisco. The presenters included Dr. Douglas W. Losordo, associate professor of medicine at Tufts School of Medicine.

One of the world's leading researchers in gene/cell therapy angiogenesis, Losordo is currently overseeing clinical trials involving this procedure.

Traditional therapies to reverse cardiovascular disease have used either angioplasty to blow out blockages in the arteries or coronary artery bypass grafts.

In therapeutic angiogenesis, a DNA cocktail is injected directly into the muscle of a patient's heart to produce new blood vessels that supplement or replace diseased arteries.

The mutations of human genes have been found to be responsible for more than 4,000 diseases. Some disorders are caused by a defect in a single gene, as is the case with sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis and Alzheimer's disease.

In contrast, the family of disorders that constitute cardiovascular disease typically result from more than one mutated gene. For example, more than 300 genes have so far been associated with cardiac hypertrophy, and genetic factors are believed to be responsible for approximately two-thirds of the cases of high blood pressure.

In addition to Losordo, researchers from the Mayo Clinic, National Institutes of Health, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and other leading research sites also gave presentations at the three-day conference.