The herpes simplex virus, type 1 (HSV-1) is usually considered an annoyance. It causes cold sores or fever blisters around the mouth, which can be painful, unsightly, and take up to a few weeks to heal. But Christopher Skelly, MD, Chief of the Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy Section at UChicago Medicine, and his team have figured out a way to engineer a version of HSV-1 that does something useful: helping prevent the failure of vein grafts after bypass surgery.
Bypass surgery is used to restore blood flow to clogged arteries in either the heart (to treat or prevent a heart attack) or the extremities (to prevent leg amputation). A patient’s own saphenous vein, a large vein in the leg, is frequently used as the bypass conduit. After the initial surgery, the vein will frequently develop scar tissue, known as intimal hyperplasia, which can result in a recurrence of symptoms or even further interventions or hospitalizations.
Skelly’s team engineered a strain of HSV-1 that prevents scar tissue from forming and limits inflammation. A paper on the project was published today in PLOS One:
“This exciting study begins to demonstrate that this biotechnology targets both the proliferating smooth muscle cells and the inflammatory cells that drive this vexing problem,” said Skelly. “Given the already established safety profile in humans, we hope to use this technology for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.”