Los Angeles: Heart patients could soon be treated with a simple injection of a "natural" pacemaker, scientists say. Researchers have reprogrammed ordinary heart cells to become exact replicas of highly specialised biological pacemakers by injecting a single gene, a breakthrough that could help repair the heart. Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute researchers developed the pacemaker cells by injecting the gene (Tbx18)- a major step forward in the decade-long search for a biological therapy to correct erratic and failing heartbeats. "Although we and others have created primitive biological pacemakers before, this study is the first to show that a single gene can direct the conversion of heart muscle cells to genuine pacemaker cells. The new cells generated electrical impulses spontaneously and were indistinguishable from native pacemaker cells," said research scientist Hee Cheol Cho.
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