Saturday, July 26 2014 2:02 AM EDT2014-07-26 06:02:47 GMT
Police are searching for two men who carjacked an SUV and plowed into a group of children and adults selling fruit at a Philadelphia street corner, killing three kids and seriously injuring two women.More >>
Police were searching for two men who carjacked an SUV and plowed into a group of children and adults selling fruit to raise money for their church, killing three kids and critically injuring their mother and the...More >>
Saturday, July 26 2014 12:45 AM EDT2014-07-26 04:45:52 GMT
The Ohio State marching band is moving forward without its director; a day after he was fired they're performing with the Columbus Symphony in what's often considered the band's unofficial season kickoff.More >>
Having forced out a beloved football coach and watched its president retire after a series of verbal gaffes, Ohio State University again finds itself grabbing headlines with the firing of a celebrated marching band...More >>
Friday, July 25 2014 11:56 PM EDT2014-07-26 03:56:40 GMT
Police have arrested the foster parent of a 10-month-old girl who died after being left inside a hot car in Wichita, Kansas.More >>
A 10-month-old Kansas girl died after being strapped for more than two hours inside a sweltering car, and police arrested a foster parent who said he'd forgotten about her until something on TV jogged his memory, an...More >>
Friday, July 25 2014 11:23 PM EDT2014-07-26 03:23:25 GMT
A federal judge has dismissed a Wyoming man's lawsuit claiming a group secretly found the missing airplane of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart in the South Pacific but kept it quiet so it could continue to raise...More >>
A federal judge on Friday dismissed a Wyoming man's claims that an aircraft recovery group secretly found wreckage of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart's missing airplane in the South Pacific but kept it quiet so it...More >>
Friday, July 25 2014 10:33 PM EDT2014-07-26 02:33:36 GMT
U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake was attending a ceremony for a judicial colleague when he received an urgent - and unusual - request: Lawyers for a condemned inmate wanted him to stop an execution that didn't...More >>
U.S. Sen. John McCain says the execution of an Arizona inmate that lasted two hours was torture.More >>
Friday, July 25 2014 9:35 PM EDT2014-07-26 01:35:42 GMT
A large family that lives at the shore and suffered losses during Superstorm Sandy will share a $20 million lottery jackpot that one of the 17 siblings said will be "a great pick-me-up."More >>
A lottery-playing tradition started by the matriarch of a large New Jersey shore family paid off for her 17 children this week when the group won a $20 million jackpot that will partly be used to help family members...More >>
Friday, July 25 2014 9:32 PM EDT2014-07-26 01:32:57 GMT
An 80-year-old man who came home to find two burglars said he shot and killed one of them despite her pleas that she was pregnant, but it's the woman's alleged accomplice who has been arrested on suspicion...More >>
Prosecutors Friday were waiting for the results of a police investigation into the killing of a burglar by an 80-year-old California homeowner who says he shot the woman in the back as she fled his home and ran down an...More >>
Friday, July 25 2014 9:15 PM EDT2014-07-26 01:15:50 GMT
A federal appeals court is upholding a Florida law that restricts what doctors can discuss about guns with their patients.More >>
A Florida law restricting what doctors can tell patients about gun ownership was deemed to be constitutional Friday by a federal appeals court, which said it legitimately regulates professional conduct and doesn't...More >>
Friday, July 25 2014 9:05 PM EDT2014-07-26 01:05:50 GMT
It's been called a David vs. Goliath story, a "Tale of Two Arthurs" and even the "ultimate Greek tragedy," but the characters in this drama are not Biblical or literary figures.More >>
It's been called a David vs. Goliath story, a "Tale of Two Arthurs" and even the "ultimate Greek tragedy," but the characters in this drama are not Biblical or literary figures. They're grocery store owners.More >>
Friday, July 25 2014 8:44 PM EDT2014-07-26 00:44:45 GMT
Two men forced a woman into the backseat of her vehicle at gunpoint, drove off but later lost control and plowed into a group of people on a corner near a fruit stand in Philadelphia on Friday, police said. Two...More >>
Two men carjacked a woman at gunpoint but soon sped out of control, killing three children Friday as they plowed into a group selling fruit to raise money for their church, Philadelphia police said.More >>
Unaccompanied minors enroll in US schools, presenting opportunities and extra costsMore >>
Unaccompanied minors enroll in US schools, presenting opportunities and extra costsMore >>
By LAURAN NEERGAARD AP Medical Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - No batteries required: Scientists are creating a biological pacemaker by injecting a gene into the hearts of sick pigs that changed ordinary cardiac cells into a special kind that induces a steady heartbeat.
The study, published Wednesday, is one step toward developing an alternative to electronic pacemakers that are implanted into 300,000 Americans a year.
"There are people who desperately need a pacemaker but can't get one safely," said Dr. Eduardo Marban, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, who led the work. "This development heralds a new era of gene therapy" that one day might offer them an option.
Your heartbeat depends on a natural pacemaker, a small cluster of cells - it's about the size of a peppercorn, Marban says - that generates electrical activity. Called the sinoatrial node, it acts like a metronome to keep the heart pulsing at 60 to 100 beats a minute or so, more when you're active. If that node quits working correctly, hooking the heart to an electronic pacemaker works very well for most people.
But about 2 percent of recipients develop an infection that requires the pacemaker to be removed for weeks until antibiotics wipe out the germs, Marban said. And some fetuses are at risk of stillbirth when their heartbeat falters, a condition called congenital heart block.
For over a decade, teams of researchers have worked to create a biological alternative that might help those kinds of patients, trying such approaches as using stem cells to spur the growth of a new sinoatrial node.
Marban's newest attempt uses gene therapy to reprogram a small number of existing heart muscle cells so that they start looking and acting like natural pacemaker cells instead.
Because pigs' hearts are so similar to human hearts, Marban's team studied the approach in 12 laboratory pigs with a defective heart rhythm.
They used a gene named TBX18 that plays a role in the embryonic development of the sinoatrial node. Working through a vein, they injected the gene into some of the pigs' hearts - in a spot that doesn't normally initiate heartbeats - and tracked them for two weeks.
Two days later, treated pigs had faster heartbeats than control pigs who didn't receive the gene, the researchers reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. That heart rate automatically fluctuated, faster during the day. The treated animals also became more active, without signs of side effects.
"In essence, we created a new sinoatrial node," Marban said. "The newly created node then takes over as a functional pacemaker, bypassing the need for implanted electronics and hardware."
It's a different type of gene therapy, and a few other genes that might switch one cell type to another are under early study to treat deafness and diabetes, Marban said.
It's not clear how long these newly reprogrammed cells would keep working, cautioned Drs. Nikhil Munshi and Eric Olson of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who weren't involved in the research but analyzed the findings in a journal commentary.
Also, the gene was delivered by putting it into a virus engineered to disappear relatively soon afterward. The Texas pair noted that some virus particles landed in the lung and spleen, and that longer studies are needed to rule out safety concerns.
Still, the results "provide an encouraging indication that a biological pacemaker might eventually be ready for human translation," Munshi and Olson concluded.
The heart rate did start to slow a little toward the study's end, but Marban said there's no reason to believe "that the two weeks is somehow a magic cap. We have every reason to believe that this could go on longer."
He said longer-term animal studies are underway, and he hopes to begin first-step human studies in about three years.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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