Biological pacemaker development offers heart treatment and research benefits

Engineering

A new method of engineering biological pacemakers has been developed by a team of scientists from Israel and Canada.

Using knowledge from the field of developmental biology, the researchers were able to develop a differentiation protocol for the creation of pacemaker cells using human embryonic stem cells.

“Scientists have developed a means of creating biological pacemakers, a discovery with broad-ranging implications for medical research and treatment.“

Subsequent pacemaker cell transplants were shown to be able to restore normal heart rhythm in six of the seven rats that were tested. In contrast to previous studies, this approach used pure pacemaker cells, instead of a combination of pacemaker and other heart cells.

This method overcomes a number of the limitations of electronic pacemakers, including the need for invasive surgical procedures, the risk of infection, a lack of hormonal sensitivity and a limited duration of activity due to a finite battery life.

Professor Lior Gepstein of the Technion Faculty of Medicine and Rambam Heath Care Campus said: "This development is significant both in terms of research, because it will enable scientists to study the heart in new ways, and in practical terms, since we are presenting an assembly line here for an unlimited reservoir of pacemaker cells."

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