Gene turns heart cells into pacemaker: Study
PARIS (AFP) - A gene inserted into ordinary heart cells transformed them into rare "pacemaker" cells that regulate cardiac rhythm, according to experiments carried out on lab rodents.
The research is a step toward the goal of a biological fix for irregular heartbeat, which at present is tackled by drugs or electronic pacemakers, its investigators said.
The heart has 10 billion cells but fewer than 10,000 of them are pacemaker cells, which generate electrical activity that spreads to other cardiac cells, making the organ contract rhythmically and pump blood.
The work, reported in the journal Nature Biotechology on Sunday, uses a virus to deliver a human gene called Tbx18, whose normal role is to coax immature cells into becoming pacemaker cells.