Natural pacemaker developed

Scientific news

Amsterdam, 18 juli 2014 –

Scientists have developed a natural pacemaker using genetic therapy. The pacemaker was shown to be successful in pigs. The results were published in Science Translational Medicine. Dr. Eduardo Marbán, head of the research at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles (USA), thinks that clinical studies on humans with this method could start within three years from now.

The researchers brought the gene TBX18 into heart cells of pigs with a heart block using a catheter. Starting the next day, the pigs showed faster and stronger heartbeats compared to the control group. This phenomenon was observed during the entire study of fourteen days.

By bringing TBX18 into atrial cells with an adenovirus, these cells started to develop into Sinus Atrial node (SA-node) cells. It is known that TBX18 is a transcription factor responsible for turning on genes that stimulate cells to develop to SA-node cells.

Adenoviruses have been used before in genetic therapy to bring genetic material into cells, which is called transduction. Adenoviruses have the benefit that they can also transduce non-dividing cells.

Pigs often serve as test animals in cardiology research due to the similarity in form and size of the heart to that of humans.

Many elders get an electronic pacemaker. A possible side effect of having a pacemaker is the development of an infection at the fixation site of the pacemaker.

Source: Science Translational Medicine.