CONTACT: TOM MOORE
8788 John Pappajohn Pavilion
Iowa City IA 52242
Release: Oct. 7, 1999
UI cardiology specialist studies gene therapy to help
heart grow new blood vessels
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Cardiology specialists with University
of Iowa Health Care have treated the first Iowan to receive a pioneering treatment
for severe end-stage heart disease. The technique involves the use of gene
therapy to help the heart sprout new blood vessels.
The treatment is part of an investigational protocol
being conducted by John Lopez, M.D., UI assistant professor (clinical) of
internal medicine, and Wayne Richenbacher, M.D., UI associate professor of
surgery. The study continues their work in the area of myocardial angiogenesis,
in which attempts are made to cause the heart to grow new blood vessels.
Previously, UI Health Care researchers studied a protein
called Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor, or VEGF. The new study focuses
on VEGF-2 gene therapy.
"This is truly cutting edge, very exciting research,"
said Lopez, a cardiologist. "The study is designed to determine if direct
intramuscular gene therapy with VEGF DNA can cause sprouting, or growth of,
new blood vessels to treat severe coronary artery disease."
The first Iowan to receive VEGF-2 gene therapy is
William Hart, a social worker and counselor at Ottumwa Regional Health Center.
"I had coronary bypass graft surgery about 10 years
ago after I had a heart attack," Hart said. "Now, I have blockages in my coronary
arteries again but the arteries are too fragile for another bypass graft surgery
"Attempts to revascularize the heart, such as using
VEGF, are important for patients such as Mr. Hart," said Richenbacher, a cardiac
surgeon. "He is certainly an example of someone who really does not have any
other treatment options."
Richenbacher also uses another technique to improve
blood flow in the heart, called transmyocardial revascularization, or TMR.
TMR involves using a laser to drill tiny holes, or channels, in the heart
to allow blood to reach areas of the heart that are not receiving optimal
"Our experience with TMR and VEGF makes this one of
the few centers in the world with ample experience in both of these new modalities
for revascularization for patients with severe end-stage heart disease," Lopez
said. "This is an important new service for people who are often told that
nothing can be done for them."
Patients with severe coronary artery disease often
experience chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue.
"My life and lifestyle were both becoming very limited.
I couldn't even climb a set of stairs," Hart said. "I hope that this will
help me lead a normal life again."
The research team will monitor Hart's condition closely
and perform scans to determine if his heart does indeed sprout new blood vessels.
The study is being conducted in five medical centers in the United States.
The VEGF-2 gene therapy study is being directed by Cato Research and Vascular
Genetics. It is an open label, Phase II study, and it follows preliminary
research done by Jeff Isner, M.D., chief of cardiovascular research at St.
Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston.
(NOTE TO EDITORS: A videotaped interview with
William Hart is available. For more information, contact Tom Moore
at (319) 356-3945.)
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership
between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the
patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.