Gene converts heart cells
A team of scientists found a way to genetically alter normal heart cells into pacemaker cells. Pacemaker cells regulate the body’s heartbeats into what’s called a sinus rhythm. When pacemaker cells fail, the sinus rhythm is disturbed and the body does not receive its usual, uninterrupted supply of oxygen-rich blood. To correct the problem, an artificial pacemaker is usually implanted in the heart to regulate the sinus rhythm and restore an adequate blood supply.
But in the new research, scientists found that when they inserted a gene called Tbx18 into normal heart tissue, heart cells changed into the highly specialized pacemaker cells and remained that way. Further study is needed, however, to test the safety of this method before therapies can be developed that would replace an artificial pacemaker.