Emory Hospital researchers are investigating a new anticlotting medication that is produced by inserting human DNA into the cells of goats. The new drug may reduce the need for blood transfusions during surgery.
The anticlotting protein, human antithrombin III (ATIII), is a plasma protein that helps prevent clotting in many serious medical conditions. This is the first clinical trial in which patients will be treated with a product made in the milk of a transgenic animal, one that has been injected with the genes of another species.
Transgenic proteins are produced by inserting human DNA into animals' cells so that the target protein, or drug, is secreted in the milk of female offspring.
In this trial, transgenic ATIII will be administered to patients undergoing heart surgery. During heart surgery, blood levels of ATIII drop below normal levels. The anti-clotting drug-or anticoagulant-heparin activates ATIII to prevent clotting during surgery. Using ATIII in addition to hepain increases the effect of the anticoagulant.
"What the transgenic ATIII does is replace the patient's own ATIII that is lost during surgery," said Jerrold Levy, professor of anesthesiology and a cardiac anesthesiologist. "It may potentially help reduce the need for blood transfusions during surgery, thereby reducing complications."
-Susan E. Stewart
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