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23 Dec 2011 04:35 AM

Can Nerve Growth Factor Gene Therapy Prevent Diabetic Heart Disease?


Diabetes is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and can reduce blood supply to the heart tissue and damage cardiac cells, resulting in heart failure. New research has investigated if nerve growth factor (NGF) gene therapy can prevent diabetic heart failure and small vascular disease in mice.



The study by Professor Costanza Emanueli, British Heart Foundation Senior Research Fellow and colleagues of the Bristol Heart Institute in the Regenerative Medicine Section of the School of Clinical Sciences at the University of Bristol is published online in Diabetes, which is the journal of the American Diabetes Association.



Scientists believe that NGF has a protective effect on the cardiovascular system but the possibility that cardiac NGF gene therapy could prevent diabetes-induced heart failure has not been previously studied.



The team investigated whether increasing the myocardial level of NGF by using adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors could prevent the diabetic heart from failure. AAVs are small non-enveloped, single-stranded DNA viruses that can potentially infect all cell types. They exist in different forms, allowing to better target different cells for gene therapy, including after AAV injection in a vein. Importantly, at variance from more popular viral vectors, AAVs allow for virtually permanent increased level of a therapeutic protein.



Professor Emanueli said: "Our study represents a major advance in tackling heart disease in diabetics, a leading cause of death in the western world. It also represents one important step forward in our goal for translating NGF-based therapies in cardiovascular patients.



"The critical scientific finding from our research is that diabetes reduces cardiac level of NGF. Most importantly, engineering the diabetic heart with AAVs to make it produce NGF can prevent heart failure."



Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the BHF, added: "Targeted gene therapy is now becoming a realistic prospect for several human diseases. This study suggests that there is...
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