Saturday September 21, 2019

Gene Therapy Can Help Correct Heart Rhythm Disorder

However, considerable research is still needed before a treatment can be arrived at that is suitable for human patients

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The study modified the levels of the protein encoded by a single gene known as GPR39.  Pixabay

A novel gene therapy uses an implanted LED device to reset a racing heart immediately and automatically, paving the way for pain-free treatment for patients with heart rhythm disorder.

The therapy detects fast arrhythmias in the atrium of a rat’s heart and sends a signal to a LED device placed near the heart.

“The flash of light from this LED then causes the heart to generate an electric current itself to halt the arrhythmia,” said lead investigator Daniel Pijnappels at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

“This is made possible by using gene therapy to introduce specific light-sensitive proteins into the heart. This restores the heart’s normal rhythm immediately and automatically,” he added.

According to the researchers, this could represent a great improvement on the current way of stopping atrial fibrillation.

The heart attack brings about activation of certain genes which stay as a permanent memory in genes. Pixabay

Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder in clinical practice. The current treatment, known as cardioversion, is based on administering an electric shock to the heart, which has to be done in the hospital under general anaesthesia because of pain.

For many patients, this is the only treatment to immediately stop atrial fibrillation because drugs or an operation are ineffective.

“The bioelectronic defibrillator can stop atrial fibrillation without an electrical shock. In this way, the heart can be reset in a fully automated manner and at any time,” Pijnappels said, in the paper reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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“We anticipate that this treatment for atrial fibrillation could improve both the patient’s quality of life and their prognosis,” he added.

However, considerable research is still needed before a treatment can be arrived at that is suitable for human patients, the researchers noted. (IANS)

Next Story

Medicare Uses Breakthrough Gene Therapy to Cover Some Blood Cancers

Medicare covers more than 60 million seniors and people with disabilities

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FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2019, file photo, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma speaks during a news conference in Washington. VOA

Expanding access to a promising but costly treatment, Medicare said Wednesday that it would cover for some blood cancers a breakthrough gene therapy that revs up a patient’s own immune cells to destroy malignancies.

Officials said Medicare would cover CAR-T cell therapies for certain types of lymphoma and leukemia, uses that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The cost can run to hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient, not counting hospitalization and other expenses. Medicare Administrator Seema Verma said the decision would provide consistent and predictable access nationwide, opening up treatment options for some patients “who had nowhere else to turn.”

Turbocharge, reprogram cells 

CAR-T uses gene therapy techniques to turbocharge the patient’s own immune system cells, reprogramming them to harbor a “receptor” that zeroes in on cancer, and then to grow hundreds of millions of copies. The revved-up immune cells are returned to the patient’s bloodstream and can continue to fight cancer for months or years.

blood cancers
Medicare covers more than 60 million seniors and people with disabilities. Pixabay

Although side effects can be severe, studies have shown the treatment to be highly effective against certain types of cancers. Researchers are working to add more types to that list. Medicare has been weighing the decision for months. The program often sets the tone for private insurance as well.

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Special program

In its announcement, Medicare said it would cover CAR-T when the treatment is provided in institutions that are enrolled with the FDA in a special program to promote safety. It will also cover the treatment for other uses, if they are recommended by agency-approved medical research literature.

CAR-T uses a different strategy than other gene-therapy techniques. Instead of trying to fix disease-causing genes, it focuses on the patient’s immune system, specifically the T cells that battle foreign substances in the body. The problem with cancer is that malignant cells can often evade detection by the patient’s T cells. CAR-T helps the body’s own T cells do a better job of spotting tumors. Medicare covers more than 60 million seniors and people with disabilities. (VOA)