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Gene Therapy Offers Alternative to Heart Drugs

Could sidestep side effects of calcium channel blockers

THURSDAY, July 8, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A gene therapy that mimics the action of calcium channel blockers has been developed in research with guinea pigs by scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

Calcium channel blockers are widely used to treat heart diseases such as angina, hypertension, arrhythmias, and an enlarged heart.

It's believed this is the first successful effort to create gene therapy that mimics calcium channel blockers. The research may help scientists develop a gene therapy alternative to calcium channel blockers, which can cause severe side effects.

The study appears in the July 8 online issue of Circulation.

"Calcium channel blockers are a valuable tool in combating arrhythmias and other forms of heart disease, but they can cause low blood pressure, heart block, and constipation," study author Dr. Eduardo Marban, chief of cardiology at the Hopkins Institute of Molecular Cardiology, said in a prepared statement.

"Our basic research is trying to find new ways of harnessing the benefits of calcium channel blockers while avoiding the negative side effects of existing pill therapies, especially on other organs of the body. Our initial results with gene therapy are very promising," Marban said.

More information

The National Library of Medicine has more about calcium channel blockers.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, news release, July 8, 2004
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