therapy has been used to develop a biological pacemaker in a pig model; if the
same process is successful in humans, it would indeed be a huge benefit for
patients of heart block in need of a pacemaker.
is gene therapy?
medical conditions have been found to be due to genetic defects
. Gene therapy is a
type of treatment that can possibly be used to treat such conditions. It
involves either correction of the abnormality in the gene or introducing a
correct gene to take on the function of the defective gene. Currently, gene
therapy is under investigation for its use in several diseases which include:
Blood disorders like sickle cell anemia and hemophilia
Nervous system disorders like Parkinsonism and Alzheimer's disease
is a cardiac pacemaker?
The continuous and rhythmic movements of
the heart are controlled by an inbuilt electrical system. This consists of two
nodes, the sinoatrial and atrioventricular nodes, which control the rate and
rhythm, bundles of nerves connected to the pacemakers and the Purkinje fibers
that carry impulses to the muscle of the heart. The sinoatrial node (SA node)
generates the impulse which travels to the atrioventricular node (AV node); the
AV node controls the spread of impulse to the heart via the Purkinje fibers.
in the nodes can result in a heart block
. Patients with complete heart
blocks are treated with artificial pacemakers. Artificial pacemakers are associated
with complications which include:
Damage of lungs or heart
from the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, CA have recently
published a paper in the scientific journal, Science Translational Medicine
where they have developed a biological pacemaker for a pig with a complete
heart block. They used gene
to convert cardiac cells into
a pacemaker by means of an injection. They found that the pacemaker was
effective as well as devoid of any complications during the study period.
the same experiment can be reproduced in humans and is successful, it would be
beneficial for several individuals who suffer from complications with the
current pacemakers. Since the procedure is minimally invasive and does not
require open surgery, the recovery is also likely to be better.
However, it would still take some time for this
procedure to be used clinically in humans. The study was carried out only for
14 days, thus the long-term efficacy of the biological pacemaker cannot be