The goal of gene therapy is to introduce foreign deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) into somatic cells to correct or prevent disorders caused by the malfunction of genes within a diseased individual. Overexpression of recombinant genes at specific sites within the vasculature can provide insights into vascular biology and potential treatments for various cardiovascular disorders such as restenosis. Methods for the introduction of foreign DNA into endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells have been developed recently. These include the genetic modification of endothelium in vitro and implantation in vivo on arterial segments, direct infection of the arterial wall in vivo with a replication-defective retroviral vector expressing a recombinant gene and direct transfer of genes into vascular cells in vivo with use of liposomes. Although still in its formative stages, gene transfer into the vasculature holds promise as a potential treatment for vascular diseases, including atherosclerosis and restenosis. This approach may also provide insight into the role of specific gene products in the development of pathologic lesions.
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