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British scientists have launched a pioneering trial to see whether gene therapy can potentially replace heart transplants.

British scientists have launched a pioneering trial to see whether gene therapy can potentially replace heart transplants.

Lee Adams, a 37-year-old carpenter from Hertfordshire, is the first of 24 patients with advanced heart failure to be recruited.

Like all the other participants, he has been fitted with a mechanical pump to keep his blood flowing while waiting for a suitable donor heart.

The study is the first in the world to investigate the use of gene therapy in heart failure patients kept alive by a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD).

Sixteen randomly chosen patients will be treated with a corrective gene to help their hearts beat more strongly. Eight others are to receive a "dummy" placebo therapy.

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Mr Adams, who has had an LVAD for more than two and a half years, does not know which group he is in because the trial is "blinded".

"Of course the best thing that could happen would be for my heart function to show signs of improvement and for the gene therapy to prove to be a 'miracle cure' for myself and other patients," he said.

"But I'm not building up my hopes too much because, for all I know, I might have had the placebo. If it does prove to be successful it would be exciting for patients who need a transplant but end up on the waiting list for a long time because of the shortage of donors."

hnews@herald.ie


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