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Medicine Biotech

Gene Therapy Converts Heart Cells Into "Biological Pacemakers" 26

Zothecula (1870348) writes Pacemakers serve an invaluable purpose, by electrically stimulating a recipient's heart in order to keep it beating at a steady rate. The implantation of a pacemaker is a major surgical procedure, however, plus its presence in the body can lead to complications such as infections. Now, for the first time, scientists have instead injected genes into the defective hearts of pigs, converting unspecialized heart cells into "biological pacemakers." Research Paper (abstract, full text paywalled).
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Gene Therapy Converts Heart Cells Into "Biological Pacemakers"

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  • Progress (Score:4, Interesting)

    by s3anister ( 3548601 ) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @05:28AM (#47487965)
    It's science like this that makes me hopeful for the future. As someone who in their 20s suffers from heart problems I certainly hope developments like this which change the base nature of cells can treat my condition.
    • For now, I can tolerate my atrial fibrillation but being nearly age 70 that may not last for long and I really don't want a pacemaker. Hopefully, I can get some new SA node genes and you can get what you need some day soon.
      • Pacers won't help afib except for ablating the av node with rapid rates. Have you talked to your ep about a pulmonary vein isolation (afib ablation) being an option?

        • Doc was talking about a newer pacemaker/defibrillator device I believe (I should have specified such). At the time I, wasn't interested. I've been cardioverted once which lasted about a year. I'll definitely look into the PVI solution.
  • As long as you don't get a couple of thousand pacemakers around the body, usually called 'cancer'.

  • It's a start (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chewbacon ( 797801 ) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @12:02PM (#47489083)

    Cloning sinus nodes will help patients with sick sinus syndrome. You'll still need devices to help those in complete heart block (but could fix if you grow an AV node or perkinje fibers), ICDs for deadly arrhythmias, and biventricular devices for cardiac resync therapy. But if you clone an AV mode or a His bundle, will they connect to the perkinje network? A rep from Medtronic said this could put them out of business. Despite the Benjamins, this will be better for patients as a less painful procedure and likely less infections. I hope they answer all the questions and make this work. This will be really good for young patients who would no longer have to have a device change every 8-12 years or worry about wires going bad in their lifetime.

    • by Japie_H ( 997237 )
      This does work in complete heartblock. They injected their adenoviral construct into the right ventricle, in fact they tested this approach in pigs with complete heartblock (as per title of the paper).

      Having said that, this is not the first time (or the only approach for which there is prove of principle) to create a biological pacemaker in big animals. And there are many considerations to take into account, a basic one is the different sequence of cardiac activation and how this influences pump function
  • Hope this pans out (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fatboy ( 6851 ) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @07:09PM (#47491115)

    My daughter has complete congenital heartblock due to exposure to SSa/Ro antibodies. (My wife had undiagnosed Sjogren's syndrome) She has had a pacemaker most of her life, with her first pacemaker implanted at 12 days. I'm very excited about this and hope that one day doctors could grow her a new AV node,

The primary function of the design engineer is to make things difficult for the fabricator and impossible for the serviceman.