Gene therapy

Biological pacemaker created by gene transfer

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The pacemaker cells of the heart initiate the heartbeat, sustain the circulation, and dictate the rate and rhythm of cardiac contraction1. Circulatory collapse ensues when these specialized cells are damaged by disease, a situation that currently necessitates the implantation of an electronic pacemaker2. Here we report the use of viral gene transfer to convert quiescent heart-muscle cells into pacemaker cells, and the successful generation of spontaneous, rhythmic electrical activity in the ventricle in vivo. Our results indicate that genetically engineered pacemakers could be developed as a possible alternative to implantable electronic devices.

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Figure 1: Suppression of Kir2.1 channels unleashes pacemaker activity.


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Miake, J., Marbán, E. & Nuss, H. Biological pacemaker created by gene transfer. Nature 419, 132–133 (2002) doi:10.1038/419132b

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