Does gene therapy work? Nuclear medicine may provide the answers

French scientists, examining the possibility of using nuclear medicine with gene therapy to fight heart diseases, reported their findings at the Society of Nuclear Medicine’s 52nd Annual Meeting June 18–22 in Toronto.


Previous studies have suggested a beneficial effect of Cyr61–a cysteine-rich, angiogenic inducer protein–in rabbits submitted to ischemic limb disease. However, no data have been available on using Cyr61 in vivo for fighting chronic myocardial ischemia (insufficient blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle).

“Cyr61 gene transfer appears potent in stimulation of myocardial angiogenesis–a novel gene therapeutic approach that seeks to induce the growth of new blood vessels in areas of the heart that are not sufficiently supplied by blood due to severe coronary artery disease,” said Pascal Merlet, M.D., Ph.D., nuclear medicine department, Hopital Bichat, Paris, France. “Our findings suggest that Cyr61 could be a therapeutic candidate for treating severe myocardial ischemic disease,” he added. The French scientists examined Cyr61’s effect in a porcine model of ischemic heart disease.

Ischemic heart disease is a term given to heart problems caused by narrowed heart arteries. When arteries are narrowed, less blood and oxygen reach the heart muscle. Also called coronary heart disease, it affects an estimated 14 million people in the United States.

“This is exciting news,” said Josef Machac, M.D., director of the Clinical PET Center and Nuclear Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, N.Y., and a vice chair of SNM’s Scientific Program Committee (Cardiovascular Track). “Molecular or nuclear imaging, with its use of radiopharmaceuticals and high imaging sensitivity, is in a unique position to study molecular and vascular biology.”

The authors of “Stimulation of Angiogenesis by Cyr61 Gene Therapy in a Porcine Model of Chronic Myocardial Ischemia” are Emmanuel Teiger, departement de cardiologie, Hopital Universitaire Henri Mondor, Creteil, France; Ramin Bazeli, Francois Rouzet, Rachida Lebtahi and Stephane Champagne, all departement de medecine nucleaire, Hopital Bichat, Paris, France; Luc Hittinger, departement de cardiologie, Hopital Universitaire Henri Mondor, Creteil, France; and Dominique Le Guludec and Pascal Merlet, both departement de medecine nucleaire, Hopital Bichat, Paris, France.

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Maryann Verrillo EurekAlert!

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