Can gene therapy be used to prevent vein graft disease?

During heart bypass surgery, sections of vein are often removed from the leg to get around blocked coronary arteries and improve blood supply to the heart muscle. However, these vein grafts often narrow in the months and years to follow because they are affected by the same disease that blocked the original artery and the surgery may have to be repeated.

Previous research has shown that the growth of microscopic blood vessels in the wall of the vein graft can prevent vein graft disease from developing. The HGF gene has been shown to promote the growth of these small blood vessels and has been used successfully in the legs of patients with blocked leg arteries. Gavin Murphy’s research will establish if HGF gene therapy can be used to prevent vein graft disease.

Gavin Murphy said: “I am delighted to have been awarded funding for my research project. By carrying out further investigation into the HGF gene and how it can be used to benefit those who have had heart bypass surgery, it will hopefully reduce the number of patients who experience recurrent angina and heart attacks.”

Barbara Harpham, National Director at Heart Research UK, added: “Over the past 11 years Heart Research UK has awarded well over £600,000 of medical grants to researchers in Bristol alone and we are pleased to include Gavin Murphy and his project as one of them.  We wish him all the best with his study and look forward to a project update.”

Further information:

The Novel and Emerging Technology Grant of £116,218 has been awarded to Gavin Murphy, Reader in Cardiac Surgery in the School of Clinical Sciences at the University of Bristol from national heart charity, Heart Research UK.

Heart Research UK is a visionary charity founded in 1967 by Mr David Watson, a working heart surgeon, who realised that patients were dying unnecessarily because of the lack of research into heart disease, especially surgical techniques. Having funded six of the first eight successful UK heart transplants the charity leads the way funding ground breaking, medical research projects into the prevention, treatment and cure of heart disease.

There is a strong emphasis on supporting clinical and surgical projects and young researchers on their first steps into research. The charity currently funds over £4.1m of research projects at 32 hospitals and universities across the UK, funding over £860,000 last year alone. In addition, over £1m has been awarded over the last 10 years to community-based lifestyle projects that aim to prevent or reduce the risks of heart disease.