August 23, 2010

Natural Bypass Surgery?

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , at 11:44 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

photo by m_bartosch

Ask anyone who has ever had bypass surgery if they felt the procedure was natural and they will most likely say “no!”

Even though the risk of death from bypass is low, it can still be a long and complicated road to recovery.  But what if you could avoid surgery altogether?  Some patients are lucky enough to have developed new vessels on their own to bypass blocked arteries.  When a person’s body grows new blood vessels to supply areas of the heart that are not receiving blood, this is called “collateral” circulation.  Some people seem to grow collaterals very easily while others may not.  It’s the body’s natural way of bypassing a blocked artery.

Scientists are now hoping they can create a drug to stimulate growth of new blood vessels in anyone who needs it.  A study recently reported by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine has pinpointed the genetics of collateral circulation.  By mapping out the genes involved in the natural bypass process, they hope to one day create a drug that can tell the body when and where to grow new blood vessels for improved blood flow.  Other studies have been done in the past to show how injection of a certain protein also stimulates growth of new arteries.  The biggest problem with those protein injections was that they had to be injected directly into the tissue needing regrowth.  So, if you needed a natural bypass, the injection would have to be given directly into the heart muscle via an invasive procedure.  It still beats cracking the chest open but the process is still invasive and it takes much longer for it to work.

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