Heart disease: A pacemaker… without a pacemaker!
Pacemakers are implants that stimulate the heart muscle to regulate the heart rate. But sometimes, these devices have their problems. For example, a patient could develop an infection requiring the pacemaker to be removed for a period of time, or a child may require several surgeries to update the hardware as they grow out of it. But now, researchers are working on a way to help patients who need these implants removed temporarily.
Researchers worked with pigs in the laboratory, and they found that giving injections to help express a certain protein in the heart (called TBX18) actually worked to convert heart muscle into pacemaker cells! Animals that received these injections relied on their electronic pacemakers less than 1% of the time, and the effects of receiving TBX18 lasted for about a week.
Amazing! Although it’s not a permanent solution for someone requiring a pacemaker, this research could make a big difference to patients requiring temporary pacemaker removal someday. Read more about it here.