Doctors at St Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston (US) have injected engineered DNA into an 81 year old's heart muscles to help restore blood-flow to clogged arteries by using a catheter for the first time - without the use of anaesthesia. Until now, the DNA was was injected into the heart during a two-hour long procedure that needed general anaesthesia and several days of recovery. According to Dr Jeffrey Isner, chief of cardiovascular research, the new technique should eventually allow patients to go home within an hour of surgery. It could become a safer alternative to by-pass surgery or angioplasty for high-risk patients.
The new 30-minute method involved the insertion of a catheter into the groin which is directed to the heart by X-ray imaging. A needle is advanced out of the catheter which injects the DNA into the inner wall of the heart - leading to the production of the protein vascular endothelial growth factor which stimulates the growth of new blood cells.
Meanwhile, the discussion at the meeting of the American Society for Gene Therapy (9-13 June, Washington DC) centred around the long-term repair of inborn metabolic errors. The holy grail is to be able to get replacement genes into stem cells.