Defective gene may cause heart arrhythmia

November 7, 2006

U.S. scientists say they've found an electrical imbalance caused by a malfunctioning gene results in a potentially fatal heart rhythm disorder.

The medical study was conducted at Baylor College of Medicine in Waco, Texas, Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The researchers say they are the first to isolate a gene called Caveolin-3, which influences the electrical-muscular impulses that drive the heart's rhythm. The scientists said a mutation of the gene can trigger arrhythmia that increases the risk of sudden cardiac death.

"This is part of a totally new concept in which the structural part of the heart is intertwined and connected with the electrical part," said first author Dr. Matteo Vatta, assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor and pediatric cardiac researcher at Texas Children's Hospital. "This is the missing link between the heart's electrical and muscular activities."

He said the effect of the mutation might be enhanced by medications for unrelated conditions, such as asthma, increasing the risk of cardiac arrhythmia.

The study's findings are reported online and in the Nov. 21 print edition of the journal Circulation.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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