Scientists working on a "biological pacemaker" - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Scientists working on a "biological pacemaker"

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LOS ANGELES (WKOW) -- Researchers have come up with a new method for making a "biological pacemaker" that might one day serve as an alternative to electronic ones.

Scientists say making this pacemaker involves injecting a gene into heart muscle cells, which transforms these normal heart cells into special cells that can initiate a heartbeat.

"The patient's own heart cells are being reprogrammed or transformed by this human gene, called TBX18, to become a pacemaker cell that can give spontaneous heart rhythm and rates, over the course of life," Dr. Eugenio Cingolani, with the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, said.

Right now, the experiments have only been with pigs, but longer-term animal studies are underway. Scientists hope to begin first-step human studies in about three years.

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