The beat goes on

20.08.28: HEART SPECIALISTS have performed the world's first walk-in coronary bypass operation.

The patient, Peter Dubrovsky, who went into hospital yesterday to become the first person to receive the revolutionary bio-bypass, was home in time for tea. While he was under local anaesthetic, specially prepared genes were injected into the heart muscle.

'The arteries in Peter's heart were badly furred up,' says Dr Pedro Hernandez of Columbia University Hospital. 'Until recently the only option was a major surgical operation to replace them with blood vessels from his leg or with new xenovessels, specially grown in animals.'

The genes that Dr Hernandez inserted 'code for' a hormone known as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which stimulates blood vessel growth. Over the next few months the genes will trigger the growth of new blood vessels that will wind around the clogged up ones.

New techniques are transforming the treatment of heart disease. It is still a big killer of people in their 80s and 90s, but the number of young patients is plummeting. 'We've a far better view of who is at risk,' says Hernandez. 'We can measure 25 variables, including weight at birth, lifestyle and various DNA and chemical markers, that show how likely you are to get heart disease and then tailor a prevention programme to reduce your chances of an attack by 60%.' JB