The Future of Your Heart Attack
AREN'T THERE PLANS FOR SOME KIND OF INJECTION OR PILL WE COULD TAKE TO MAKE THE PLAQUE GO AWAY?
Some scientists are indeed heading in that direction. Among the new
approaches is something called "chelation therapy" for clogged
arteries. Chelation is generally used as a detoxification process. A substance
is introduced to the bloodstream to attract and bind, say, excess lead that
might be in the bloodstream because of exposure or ingestion, to help with its
removal. The thinking is that chelation might be able to collect and bind the
calcium that holds together arterial plaque, thus causing its dissolution.
Of course, the most promising noninvasive approach for attacking the disease
is gene therapy, but that is in an embryonic stage. The idea is that
dysfunctional genes--whether they're inherited or the product of environmental
exposures or lifestyle or the aging process--are the foundation of heart
disease. So, as with cancer, once the offending genes can be identified and
marked--in this case, any genes ranging from those that regulate synthesis of
LDL cholesterol to those that manufacture C-reactive protein to those that are
involved in the complex processes of inflammation or blood clotting--they
simply can be replaced with new, perfectly functioning ones. Another approach,
now in clinical trials, is the injection of genes that stimulate the growth of
new blood vessels, which could provide a "natural bypass." Also being
investigated is the infusion of fresh stem cells from the patient's own bone
marrow into the damaged heart tissue--cells that can then transform themselves
into new heart-muscle tissue. Finally, researchers in Houston have begun to
develop a kind of vaccine against heart attacks based on a medication that
would instruct the body to slow its production of certain blood-clotting
agents, thus reducing the prospect of an artery-blocking clot
All these procedures are years away from practical use. But be brave.
"People forget that tuberculosis was once treated by surgery," Cosgrove
points out. "Then streptomycin came along and it could stop the disease,
and then preventive health maintenance came along and the disease disappeared.
I would expect this to be the course with heart disease."
Meaning that if you are under fifty today, your future heart attack might be
totally prevented by, relatively speaking, a pinprick--the promised land of
almost bloodless surgery.