Trying gene therapy to create biological pacemaker - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Trying gene therapy to create biological pacemaker

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- This pacemaker doesn't need any batteries.

Instead, scientists are creating a biological pacemaker by inserting a gene into the hearts of sick pigs -- a gene that changes ordinary cardiac cells into a special kind that induces a steady heartbeat.

It's a step toward developing an alternative to the electronic pacemakers that are implanted into 300,000 Americans a year.

Dr. Eduardo Marban, head of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, who led the work, says it might offer an option to people who "desperately need a pacemaker but can't get one safely."

Hooking an electronic pacemaker to the heart works very well for most people -- but Marban says about 2 percent of recipients develop an infection that requires the pacemaker to be removed for weeks until antibiotics wipe out the germs.

The research was published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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