Transplants of genetically engineered cells could help to reduce the risk of fatal arrhythmia in the wake of a heart attack, according to new mouse studies reported in Nature. The discovery could offer a way to prevent ventricular tachycardia, a type of heart arrhythmia that is currently the main cause of sudden death in patients who have previously had a heart attack.
Previously, doctors have attempted to improve heart function by implanting either bone marrow cells or other cells called skeletal myoblasts into heart tissue to help it recover from the damage sustained in a heart attack. Bernd K. Fleischmann and colleagues now report that, in mice, transplantation of cells called embryonic cardiomyocytes successfully reduces the danger of ventricular tachycardia. They also deduced that the key factor in these cells is a protein called connexin 43. When they genetically engineered skeletal myoblasts, which are more readily available, to express this same protein, they discovered that these cells were now equally effective in preventing cardiac arrhythmia, thereby avoiding the need to use cells from embryos.
Bernd K. Fleischmann (University of Bonn, Germany)
Michael Kotlikoff (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA) Co-author
(C) Nature press release.
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