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Virus Rebuilds Heart's Own Pacemaker In Animal Tests

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the old-ways-is-best-ways dept.

Biotech 45

hugheseyau writes "A new pacemaker has been built inside a heart by converting beating muscle into cells which can organise the organ's rhythm, U.S. researchers report. Scientists injected a genetically-modified virus into guinea pigs to turn part of their heart into a new, working pacemaker."

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Wizards (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42312409)

I wonder if this would work for the Tin Man...

how if someone with this virus dying? (2)

septianw (2796655) | about 2 years ago | (#42312423)

How if someone with this virus dying but his/her heart still work. is he/she still feel the pain? it must be bad for him/her

Re:how if someone with this virus dying? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42312491)

Go learn the English language and then come back.

Re:how if someone with this virus dying? (5, Funny)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about 2 years ago | (#42312505)

No, he will just turn into a zombie. And, as everybody knows, zombies feel no pain.

Re:how if someone with this virus dying? (1)

septianw (2796655) | about 2 years ago | (#42312591)

need some brain job to create zombie.

Re:how if someone with this virus dying? (1)

youn (1516637) | about 2 years ago | (#42322683)

need some brain job to create zombie.

not for everyone I know :p

Re:how if someone with this virus dying? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42312603)

Yeah, like jesus this first person so much believes in.
jesus, small case J, since i don't respect zombies.

Re:how if someone with this virus dying? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#42312741)

jesus, small case J, since i don't respect zombies.

It's still the dude's name. Or do you de-capitalize everyone you don't respect? Just don't call him "Him."

It's OK. (1)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about 2 years ago | (#42313573)

I doubt that He minds whether or not you capitalize the first letter in His name. And He probably doesn't even care if you call Him "him" or "Him".

Re:It's OK. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42314125)

Well of course a fictional character isn't going to care what you call them. thanks for pointing that out Sherlock!

Re:how if someone with this virus dying? (2)

wed128 (722152) | about 2 years ago | (#42313379)

since i don't respect zombies.

Or grammar.

Re:how if someone with this virus dying? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42314881)

If someone dies their heart will stop beating, or more likely they will die shortly after their heart stops beating*. This virus is just creating normal pacemaker cells which are in every normal heart, this treatment is just intended for people who have problems with their pacemaker cells in their heart and would otherwise need an artificial pacemaker.

*If you are able to breath and your heart can pump blood, you are not likely to die until something causes them to stop happening. If you stop breathing, your heart will soon not have enough oxygen to keep beating and you'll die. Likewise if you get a severe injury and lose a lot of blood, your blood pressure will drop and soon you heart won't be able to pump the blood it needs to get oxygen to itself and it will stop.

I for one (1, Funny)

alendit (1454311) | about 2 years ago | (#42312425)

welcome our virus-enhanced guinea pig overlords!

Re:I for one (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#42312923)

Just wait until this information hits the Internet. It'll go viral for sure.

First Steps (3, Informative)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | about 2 years ago | (#42312445)

First step along the road to creating the Solanum virus [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:First Steps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42312493)

Well, if it targets the brainz, maybe.

Re:First Steps (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | about 2 years ago | (#42312509)

Just a matter f switching the right genes/bits, it would seem (based on how fast we're accomplishing things deemed impossible with the human body before)...

did someone say guinea pig zombie attack? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42312449)

regenerative virus...injected, mutates and turns them into zombie guinea pigs!!!

Scared (2, Insightful)

Extremus (1043274) | about 2 years ago | (#42312461)

Am I wrong to be a bit scared about this kind of research?

Re:Scared (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42312511)

Pussy.

Dare something, get something. Or go back to your cave, and cower in a corner.

Re:Scared (2)

septianw (2796655) | about 2 years ago | (#42312567)

no you are not. we must aware of this kind of research.

Re:Scared (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42312659)

Am I wrong to be a bit scared about this kind of research?

You should watch less movies and study more.

Entertainment media have a tendency to bend reality a bit to make it interesting.

Re:Scared (4, Informative)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#42312701)

This doesn't look much different from how the heart regulates itself naturally [wikipedia.org] . It's definitely more natural than a machine pacemaker, and also has less chance to fail. The only problem is that it's much harder to control, unless they find a way to hook it up to the nervous system your heartbeat will be pretty much constant.

Re:Scared (2)

Zorpheus (857617) | about 2 years ago | (#42314713)

Maybe it is more like the Atrioventricular node [wikipedia.org] than like the Sinoatrial node. This node is acting as a reserve. This triggers a contraction of the muscles at a lower frequency, only if there was no contraction triggered by the Sinoatrial node.

Re:Scared (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42312761)

You could end up one throbbing mass.

Re:Scared (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42312953)

The question is whether you'd need to be more scared of this research or of dying from the type of heartfailure this research could fix.

Re:Scared (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42313495)

Am I wrong to be a bit scared about this kind of research?

Are you also "a bit scared" about blood transfusion or organ transplant because it might transfer a bit of your soul/memory/self to the receiver causing him to become a chimeric monster?

Are you also "a bit scared" that bionic implants like pacemaker or hearing aid would somehow grow and take over a person's mind and creating some kind of Frankenstein monster?

So, what kind of horrific, but totally without basis, made up scenario are you afraid of?

Re:Scared (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 2 years ago | (#42313901)

Am I wrong to be a bit scared about this kind of research?

Hard to say, since you didn't explain why you are. Explain your reasons, then we can discuss whether they make sense or not.

Re:Scared (1)

Extremus (1043274) | about 2 years ago | (#42314193)

Well said. My fear is that this sort of virus engineering could create deadly viruses that could get out of control. Basically because we don't know enough about viruses to be able to engineer a on-demand vaccine to any possible kind of virus. In my computer scientist kind of mind, I believe that we should only play with this kind of stuff if we can undo any kind of problem that can arise from playing with it. I know that science doesn't work like that, and neither I am saying this kind of research should be stopped. However, I confess sometimes I fear the biological disaster I see in movies.

Re:Scared (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42314437)

If you don't put new virus DNA into the virus hull, you are not creating a new virus. You are just reusing the existing virus mechanism for your own purpose. The only dangers I see is that the original virus DNA might not be reliable removed, causing the (original!) virus to reproduce and attack the organism, or that the immune system identified the virus shell as dangerous, and starts an attack against the "infected" cells (which in the worst case might turn into a full-blown autoimmune disease).

In the first case, you'd get a virus infection, but by the original virus. In the second case, the problem would be only for that person getting the treatment, without a possibility of spreading.

Re:Scared (1)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | about 2 years ago | (#42315355)

The only dangers I see is that the original virus DNA might not be reliable removed, causing the (original!) virus to reproduce and attack the organism, or that the immune system identified the virus shell as dangerous, and starts an attack against the "infected" cells (which in the worst case might turn into a full-blown autoimmune disease).

The first part is actually pretty easy. You typically grow the virus using a plasmid construct you have created. That piece of DNA is just DNA without the viral mechanism, and you can easily sequence it to confirm you got what you wanted, as well as use various reporters for in vivo expression. When you express that plasmid in cells, the virus produced is only from your version and never came in contact with the original.

As for the second, I'm not sure why you would get an auto-immune disease from this - normal immune responses don't usually cause such diseases. In fact, that the immune system does attack and clear the virus (normal behavior), such that the virus is eventually cleared from the body. The goal is to have the gene inserted and expressed without persistent viral infection.

can they convert fat cells into muscle cells? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42312497)

wasn't there an article not long ago about urine originating cells reprogrammed into neurons?

car on rent (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42312689)

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Interesting (2)

Taibhsear (1286214) | about 2 years ago | (#42313423)

Interesting science but couldn't you do basically the same thing but with stem cells and thus avert the possible viral contagion/FUD/ethics issues?

Re:Interesting (1)

crmarvin42 (652893) | about 2 years ago | (#42315581)

I'm fairly certain their are FUD and Ethics issues with stem cells since most of what I've read indicates a preference for embryonic stem cells. This neatly dodges some FUD and Ethics issues, in favor of some that are potentially less difficult to get around.

Can't do much in science these days without confronting FUD and ethics issues, and the risk of viral contagion are pretty low, since this kind of viral manipulation has been going on in labs for a while now without incident.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42320359)

The short answer is no.

I'm a stem cell biologist. More specifically, a skeletal muscle stem cell biologist. While I'm not an expert on cardiac tissue, I think I can provide some perspective. These guys used a virus to introduce a gene into existing cardiomyocytes (heart muscle). Basically it's gene therapy and a virus is the delivery mechanism. A lot of effort has been put into gene therapy via viral delivery, and I believe there is one that was recently approved.

Currently, the only stem cell population that you can coax into cardiomyocytes is embryonic stem cells, or closely related induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). iPS would be preferable for therapy cause you could make them from your own tissue and avoid rejection issues...... however, it requires delivery of multiple oncogenes (cancer causing), to make these cells in the first place. Second, the cells that these authors "made" are a highly specialized sub-type of cardiomyocytes responsible for coordinating the activity of a crap load of other cardiomyocytes. To my knowledge, nobody has figured out how to make this cell type from any sort of stem cell. Even if you could somehow make it, from stem cells that aren't loaded with oncogenes, you'd still have an engraftment issue. You can't just inject cells into tissue and expect them to perform as they normally would.

Basically what i'm trying to say, is that the approach in this paper (assuming it's honest.... big assumption) is an order of magnitude closer to the clinic than any stem cell based approach.

Re:Interesting (1)

Taibhsear (1286214) | about 2 years ago | (#42336975)

Interesting. Thanks for the update.

Guinea pigs? (1)

Winchy (2446198) | about 2 years ago | (#42314299)

The implications of this treatment would be clearer if they identified which animals they used as guinea pigs.

Re:Guinea pigs? (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 2 years ago | (#42318303)

The implications of this treatment would be clearer if they identified which animals they used as guinea pigs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinea_pig [wikipedia.org]

Re:Guinea pigs? (1)

Winchy (2446198) | about 2 years ago | (#42332007)

Woosh!

Terrible headline (1)

Krau Ming (1620473) | about 2 years ago | (#42314651)

The novelty in this work comes from using this gene to restore pacemaker function, ie: the headline should read "Delivery of the gene Tbx18 to heart rebuilds damages pacemaker cells in animal tests". Use of a virus to deliver a gene is a routine procedure in the lab and has been done thousands and thousands of times... the current headline makes it sound like some kind of virus is out there that can improve your heart function, should you happen to be sneezed on by the right person.

Re:Terrible headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42315159)

The headline should be a grammatical nightmare?

Eep (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42315163)

Next Year's Headlines:

Killer Heart Eater Virus Continues to Rampage Unchecked!

On a serious note, how often is something like this expected to mutate?

The doctor gave me a pill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42316349)

And I got a new kidney! I mean sinus node! The previous treatments were barbaric anyway.

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