Heart attack is a serious disease that may end up with death instantly if medical assistance is not provided in time. Even if the patients survived, they may have shorter life span. Pass data showed that approximately 15 per cent of heart attack patients may die within two to three years of sudden death due to the development of ventricular arrhythmias. Arrhythmia is an irregularity in the heart's natural rhythm.
A group of scientists at the University of Bonn in Germany reported on Dec 5, 2007 in the journal Nature that transplanting genetically engineered cells into the heart may help protect heart attack survivors from later developing life-threatening heart rhythm problems.
In the study, the scientists transplanted living mouse embryonic heart cells into cardiac tissue of mice with heart attack-like damage, making the animals resistant to later arrhythmias
According to the researchers, a protein known as connexin43 made by these transplanted embryonic heart cells improved electrical connections to other heart cells. As a result, the transplanted heart cells became activated during normal heart contractions. But for ethical reasons, human embryonic heart cells could not be used for transplantation in people. As such, genetically engineered skeletal muscle cells were used to make this protein. By transplanting these cells into the mouse heart, the same restorative result was achieved as with the transplanted embryonic heart cells.
Hopefully, the new approach, with some refinement, could help people who suffer heart attacks in the near future.