Viruses Helped to Make the Natural Cardiac Pacemaker

Author: Usman Zafar Paracha
Published: December 18, 2012 at 6:29 am

Scientists have utilized the genetically modified virus to produce heart’s own pacemaker in animal models.

Pacemaker is the natural heartbeat regulator, sinoatrial node (SAN), in the wall of the upper right chamber of the heart. It sends rhythmical electrical signals to maintain the heartbeat. Although, human heart has billions of cells but according to researchers fewer than 10,000 of the pacemaker cells are responsible for managing the heartbeat.

With the age and/or heart-related disorders, heart pumping gets disturbed and the optimal solution for that disturbance is the implantation of battery-powered artificial pacemakers that causes the heart to work better.

In this research, scientists from The Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, Los Angeles, California, administered genetically engineered viruses into the body of the animal model that converted heart muscle cells to the new potential pacemaker cells by interacting with the gene called Tbx18, which is usually active in the embryonic stage development of pacemaker cells. Researchers reported that the heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) became thin and tapered, after infection with the virus, acquiring the "distinctive features of pacemaker cells"

Although the research shows promising results in the animal model but it needs further experiments before the technology could be used in humans.

Dr Hee Cheol Cho, from Cedars-Sinai, said, "Electronic devices are limited to their finite battery life, requiring battery changes.

"Complications such as displacement, breakage, entanglement of the leads are not uncommon and could be catastrophic, the incidence of devices with bacterial infection keeps going up and, for paediatric patients, the device does not 'grow' with the patients.

"All these problems could be solved by a biological pacemaker."

This research was published online in December 16th issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology.


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Article Author: Usman Zafar Paracha

Usman Zafar Paracha has been blogging in science and technology for more than 6 years. He is CEO of Email: Twitter: @jeepakistan

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