Ask the experts

Is there a new injection to cure heart failure?

Diagram of a left ventricular assist device I have heart failure, and I read in the paper recently about a new injection, which could provide a possible cure. Can you tell me more about what this is and whether it could benefit me?

Professor Peter Weissberg says:

Heart failure is when the heart no longer pumps blood effectively. For severe heart failure, a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is one of the treatment options. This electrically driven pump moves blood from the left ventricle into the main artery (aorta), so it can circulate the oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. Individuals with advanced heart failure who require a transplant may be fitted with an LVAD to keep them alive until a suitable donor heart becomes available. Currently, there are 100 to 150 people in the UK living with an LVAD.

Read our feature about living with an LVAD

For the first time in the world, a patient with a mechanical heart pump has received a new gene therapy for heart failure at Harefield Hospital, London. This is part of a trial led by Imperial College London, funded by the BHF and Celladon Corporation, and could be what you’re referring to. This particular gene therapy uses a harmless engineered virus designed to increase levels of SERCA2a protein, which plays an important role in heart muscle contraction. The trial will explore whether the therapy could help these patients’ hearts recover and potentially provide an alternative treatment.

The research team plans to evaluate how this therapy works in 24 patients with advanced heart failure who are fitted with an LVAD (16 will be treated with the gene therapy, eight with placebo). Currently this is a trial, and the injection will only become available more widely if this, and subsequent larger trials, show that it is safe and effective.

Professor Peter WeissbergMeet the experts

Professor Peter Weissberg is the former medical director of the BHF and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist to Addenbrooke’s Hospital. He has a special interest in atherosclerosis.

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