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Study: Protein Aids Bypass Patients

November 2, 1999

DALLAS (AP) _ Heart bypass patients who received a protein that promotes the growth of blood vessels had less chest pain and better blood flow than those who had surgery alone, researchers reported today.

A study in today’s issue of Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, is the latest to show the apparent benefits of angiogenesis, the creation of blood vessels.

Widespread use of angiogenesis proteins, also known as growth factor, to combat heart disease is still years away, but experts say the study might provide a glimpse of future treatments. The proteins are naturally produced by the body but can be grown in laboratories.

``This helps to advance our understanding of the process of angiogenesis,″ said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, director of cardiomyopathy at the UCLA Medical Center.

The study, conducted by the Angiogenesis Research Center at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, involved 24 patients. Each underwent heart bypasses, in which a piece of vessel is grafted into place to create a detour around a clogged artery. All of the patients had at least one artery that couldn’t be bypassed, usually because the vessel was too small.

Eight of the patients received the protein in the form of 10 time-release capsules implanted during surgery beside arteries that couldn’t be bypassed. The time-release capsules are a new approach to introducing the protein. Other methods, such as injections, have been tried with lesser degrees of success.

Eight other patients received one-tenth of the dosage, while another eight received a placebo.

After three months, doctors asked patients how they felt and looked at the blood flow around their hearts. All of the patients receiving the highest dose of the growth factor had no chest pain and better blood flow.

Three in the placebo group and one receiving the lower dosage complained of continuing chest pain. Those in the placebo group saw a worsening of blood flow and those in the low-dose group saw no change in blood flow.

Two of the patients in the study died _ one in the placebo group and the other in the high-dose group. Their deaths were unrelated to the experimental treatment, doctors said.

Researchers said they were excited by the results and have launched a 120-patient study.

``It’s gratifying to see it works the way we thought it would,″ said Dr. Michael Simons, director of the research center and lead author of the study.

An estimated 598,000 bypasses were performed on 367,000 patients in the United States in 1996, according to the heart association.

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