Jefferson Scientists Find Anticancer Gene May Be Effective Adjunct to Angioplasty
Researchers at Jefferson Medical College have found that a normally protective anticancer gene may be an effective add-on to angioplasty in treating blocked coronary arteries. The gene, Rb2/p130, puts the brakes on runaway cells, halting rapid growth.
The scientists, led by Pier Paolo Claudio, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology Jefferson, and Giancarlo Condorelli, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Cardiology at the University La Sapienza in Rome, showed in rats for the first time that the gene, termed a “tumor suppressor gene,” may have therapeutic potential for treating clogged arteries.
“We found that it could be useful in stopping normal smooth muscle cells from growing,” Dr Claudio says.
In some chronic diseases, arteries are blocked due to excessive smooth muscle cell buildup. Coronary arteries may become blocked because normal cells clump and cake on artery walls. Physicians frequently turn to angioplasty, which entails expanding a balloon attached to a catheter, breaking up the blockage. But a third or more patients, within three months, experience reclogged arteries. Some researchers suspect angioplasty triggers biochemical signals to cause cells to grow again, stopping up arteries.
Viruses Deliver Gene
The scientists reported their findings November 26 in Circulation Research, a journal of the American Heart Association.
In angioplasty, “the wall injury stimulates smooth muscle cells to proliferate,” Dr. Claudio says. “We want to give the wall time to repair the damage but we don’t want to allow the smooth muscle cells to proliferate and clog the artery.” He proposes using the gene as an adjunct to angioplasty, which he believes, will have long-lasting effects.
He plans to test the treatment in transgenic mice, which carry the human genes for high cholesterol and which have chronic heart disease and clogged arteries. “We’re going to see if we can use this same treatment with the viruses on the chronic disease model, which is closer to the human disease condition,” he says.
The gene, he explains, prevents cell growth by acting on a particular part of the cell development cycle to suppress various biochemical factors that promote growth.
Dr. Claudio believes this is the first reported application of Rb2/p130 for heart disease.