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Curr Gene Ther. 2004 Mar;4(1):33-9.

Fas ligand gene therapy for vascular intimal hyperplasia.

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Genzyme Corporation, 31 New York Avenue, Framingham, MA 01701, USA.


Fas, a member of the tumor necrosis factor receptor super-family, is expressed in all cell types examined, while physiologic expression of Fas ligand (FasL) is found predominantly in activated T-lymphocytes, vascular endothelial cells, and "immune-privileged" tissues. Activation of Fas following FasL binding activates caspases, which results in apoptosis. In the vasculature, there may be a delicate balance between cell proliferation and apoptosis in vascular smooth muscle cells. Shifts in this balance could account for the accumulation of vascular smooth muscle cells in response to arterial injury, a major feature of vascular intimal hyperplasia. Intimal hyperplasia occurs in more than a third of patients receiving percutaneous transluminal balloon angioplasty. Stenting with or without coating significantly reduces the incidence rate of angiographic restenosis and that of target vessel revascularization. However, "in-stent" intimal hyperplasia/restenosis remains a challenge for clinical cardiologists. Although both the cell types and mechanisms that contribute to intimal hyperplasia in response to vascular injury remain controversial, vascular smooth muscle cell migration and proliferation appear to play an important role in the process. In animal models, cytotoxic and cytostatic gene therapy strategies targeted at the vascular smooth muscle cells have shown therapeutic potential for the treatment of vascular intimal hyperplasia. However, Fas ligand-based gene therapy appears to offer several advantages. In this review article, we will discuss the mode of FasL/Fas signaling in vascular smooth muscle cells and its therapeutic implications. We will also compare the relative merits of FasL with other cytotoxic and cytostatic gene therapy approaches for the treatment of intimal hyperplasia.

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