For over a decade, scientists have been trying to reverse heart failure by delivering a new gene to the heart that makes it better at pumping blood and supplying the body with oxygen.
As gene therapy has finally become a reality for other diseases after years in the making, there’s now renewed interest in trying it again for heart failure. In a study of 13 pigs with severe heart failure, Hajjar and his colleagues gave six a gene therapy while another seven got a placebo saline solution. The gene therapy was safe and reduced heart failure by 25 percent in the left ventricle by 20 percent in the left atrium. Hajjar’s latest therapy delivers a gene meant to regulate a protein called phosphatase-1, which is found in high levels in people with heart failure. Koch has been working on gene therapy for heart failure for more than a decade.
Dutch company UniQure, the maker of the Western world’s first gene therapy, is also working on a gene therapy for heart failure.