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News Picks : Reprogramming of heart cells could make pacemakers obsolete

By: Physics Today
18 July 2014

Los Angeles Times: The heart beats because of pacemaker cells, which emit rhythmical electrical pulses. The cells are located in just one small part of the heart, the sinoatrial node. If the heart gets damaged and the electrical signals from the pacemaker cells can’t get through to the rest of the heart, the heartbeat can become slow and irregular or stop altogether. Despite the availability of artificial pacemakers, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles are working on a biological solution. They have found a way to transform regular heart cells into pacemaker cells by injecting them with a virus laced with the gene TBX18. Although they have successfully tested the therapy in pigs that suffered complete heart block, further research is needed to understand the long-term consequences before it can be applied to humans.


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