Researchers Create ‘Biological Pacemaker’ Cells

A breakthrough revelation has been made as researchers have been able to transform ordinary cardiac muscle cells into specialized cells that provide quick heartbeat. The process was possible due to a gene therapy.

As per researchers, the procedure could one day become an alternative to implanted electronic pacemakers. An experiment was carried out in which 16 pigs having the condition called heart block were taken. The condition reduces the pace of heartbeat significantly.

Researchers injected a human gene into a small place of the heart's pumping chambers. In the next step, researchers reprogrammed heart muscle cells into a type of cells that emit electrical impulses. With the help of impulses, heartbeat pace increased.

During this process, cardiologists at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles developed 'biological pacemaker' cells. These cells helped in restoring normal heartbeat in the pigs.

"This development heralds a new era of gene therapy where genes are used not only to correct a deficiency disorder but actually to convert one type of cell into another to treat disease", affirmed Dr. Eduardo, Director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute.

Researchers shared pigs' hearts are very similar to human hearts. Dr. Eugenio Cingolani, Director of the institute's Cardiogenetics-Familial Arrhythmia Clinic, said more clinical trials on animals will be carried out. If all goes well, then they expect to begin trials in humans within three years.

It is expected that the procedure will help people living with heart rhythm disorders who cannot use a pacemaker owing to device-related complications, including infection.