Singapore researchers discover world's first drug therapy to reverse heart disorder

(From left) Associate Professor Philip Wong, director of the Research and Development Unit (RDU), Dr Ashish Mehta, senior research scientist, and Dr Winston Shim, scientific director. Researchers from the National Heart Centre Singapore have bec
(From left) Associate Professor Philip Wong, director of the Research and Development Unit (RDU), Dr Ashish Mehta, senior research scientist, and Dr Winston Shim, scientific director. Researchers from the National Heart Centre Singapore have become the first in the world to successfully and completely reverse the conditions of a potentially fatal heart rhythm disorder that has, till date, no known cure. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Researchers from the National Heart Centre Singapore have become the first in the world to successfully and completely reverse the conditions of a potentially fatal heart rhythm disorder that has, till date, no known cure.

Known as long QT syndrome 2, the disorder affects the heart's electrical activity which may cause sudden, uncontrollable, and dangerous heart rhythms in response to exercise ot stress. It is primarily an inherited condition, and though difficult to diagnose, is estimated to be prevalent among about one in 5,000 people in Singapore.

Statistics from studies worldwide have shown that if left untreated, more than half of those who inherit the syndrome die within 10 years from the first display of symptoms, which can include fainting spells and seizures.

By using human skin stem cells transformed into beating heart cells, the researchers were able to test various drug compounds. This led them to discover that a drug known as ALLN - which has yet to be in clinical use - could reverse the effects of the gene mutation producing long QT syndrome 2. The team is hoping to conduct clinical trials within three years to test the side effects of this drug therapy through international collaboration.