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A Pacemaker Made From Your Own Cells 54

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the shocking-discoveries dept.
FiReaNGeL writes to tell us that researchers at the Children's Hospital in Boston are on the road to crafting a pacemaker from living cells instead of an artificial implant. From the article: "When the engineered tissue was implanted into rats, between the right atrium and right ventricle, the implanted cells integrated with the surrounding heart tissue and electrically coupled to neighboring heart cells. Optical mapping of the heart showed that in nearly a third of the hearts, the engineered tissue had established an electrical conduction pathway, which disappeared when the implants were destroyed. The implants remained functional through the animals' lifespan (about 3 years)."
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A Pacemaker Made From Your Own Cells

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  • This is awesome (Score:5, Informative)

    by Beached (52204) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:42AM (#15560321) Homepage
    This will be a great help to those with actual pacemakers if they can use this. Currently if you have a pacemaker, diagnostic equipment like MRI are not available as the magnettic forces can move the wires and cause other weird things to happen.
    • diagnostic equipment like MRI ... can move the wires and cause other weird things to happen.

      More like rip the implant out of the body!

      -:sigma.SB

    • Re:This is awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mgv (198488) * <Nospam.01.slash2 ... Aorg minus punct> on Monday June 19, 2006 @06:34AM (#15560665) Homepage Journal
      This will be a great help to those with actual pacemakers if they can use this. Currently if you have a pacemaker, diagnostic equipment like MRI are not available as the magnettic forces can move the wires and cause other weird things to happen.

      There are alot of reasons that this won't help as many people as you might think.

      Mostly this is because pacemakers are now being used to do things which natural heart muscle cannot do anyway.

      These technologies include:

      Defibrillating (ie electric shock) a heart if it arrests.
      Short bursts of fast pacing for hearts in certain fast rhythms.
      Coordinated depolarisation of different parts of enlarged hearts to make all the walls of the heart contract at once. When hearts get injured they often get bigger, and biological conduction systems conduct too slowly for a large heart so the cardiac effort is wasted more as the heart gets bigger, making a bad system worse.

      So, if your heart is otherwise normal and you just have a conduction problem, great - this might help.

      On the other hand, hearts that need pacing usually aren't normal in lots of other ways, and in these areas just putting a small bit of "normal" tissue in won't give as much benefit as a pacemaker.

      Michael
  • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:45AM (#15560327) Journal
    Cool -- now I can play rock & roll on stage without interference from the amplifier stacks. I can plot my rise to stardom right away!

    How about -- "Geriatric and the Pacemakers"?

  • I can't wait to have my brain transplanted to my custom body (you know, the one for living underwater).
    Of course any theraputic program like this will be first used to fix damaged tissue, but give it thirty to fifty years and see what it grows into (without saying whether it's good or bad).
  • Lots of advantages (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phorm (591458) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:51AM (#15560339) Journal
    I can think of lots of advantages with this, in hearts the big ones would be the lack of issues that ye ol' metallic pacemakers possibly have with strong electrical fields, really big magnets, etc.

    And in other fields, if we can do this as an "add-on" for hearts, we could probably further the study and production of organic structures that would assist (or replace) other organs, without the nasty issues of rejection etc.

    Heck, it might even be useful for guys with major impotency problems, perhaps a little section of implanted cells that sends a "wake up" signal... that's science that would likely sell, giving funding for further research into other more crtical (life saving) uses.
    • by I_Love_Pocky! (751171) on Monday June 19, 2006 @03:31AM (#15560411)
      While I agree that this is promising technology, it seems as though it could only replace a traditional pacemaker in the case of AV node block (which is only one of the many heart problems that traditional pacemaker devices can treat).

      Essentially this technology would create an artificial bridge from the atrium to the ventricle, replacing the AV node. The AV node creates a delay between the signal propagation in the atrium to the ventricle which causes them to beat separately (the lub-lub sound you hear from your heart is atrium contracting, followed by ventricle). If this artificial replacement was not able to delay the signal properly it could lead to erratic heart rhythms (like the ventricle pumping at the same time as the atrium, which would severely diminish heart output).

      I wish the scientists and doctors working on this project the best of luck. Hopefully if they can grow conductive tissue, they could also use it to repair dead tissue found in hearts that have suffered from a heart attack.
      • by Cicero382 (913621) <{ku.oc.ilacsit} {ta} {jycnalc}> on Monday June 19, 2006 @06:06AM (#15560634)
        "While I agree that this is promising technology, it seems as though it could only replace a traditional pacemaker in the case of AV node block (which is only one of the many heart problems that traditional pacemaker devices can treat)."

        True. Reading from a (semi) professional point of view I was more excited about the use of myoblasts to construct the framework rather than its application per se. Though the change in function is pretty neat - essentially an artificial AV node! I was also happy to see a lack of the hype that often comes with this sort of announcement (FTFA "preliminary steps")

        "I wish the scientists and doctors working on this project the best of luck. Hopefully if they can grow conductive tissue, they could also use it to repair dead tissue found in hearts that have suffered from a heart attack."

        Sorry, not this way. This technique is really only for the generation of conductive tissue - not the heart muscle itself which is very different from skeletal muscle. Stem cells, anyone?
      • by Anonymous Coward
        While you are correct in all other things, the sounds are not from the atria/ventricles contracting. The sound is produced when the heart valves close (first sound is Tricuspid/Bicuspid valves, second sound is aorta/pulmonalis valves). Of course, it is the contraction that leads to the valves closing.
  • FYI... (Score:4, Informative)

    by distantbody (852269) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:55AM (#15560345) Journal
    ...We ALL have pacemakers made from our own cells already...literally...See Cardiac pacemaker [wikipedia.org]
    • Re:FYI... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Ardeocalidus (947463)
      Umm... Yea... Basic anatomy, for the win. Artificial pacemakers (hint, artificial in the name implies that they are a copy of some organic component) are simply replication our heart's own pacemaker (the "node"), which send electrical signals telling the heart muscles to contract and so forth.

      I should know. I have regular heart palpitations. :(

    • P.S. I didn't mean to imply that you were wrong. I was simply pointing out that your post was common information. The content of the post, however, is completely correct.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Patients with complete heart block or disrupted electrical conduction in their hearts are at risk for life-threatening rhythm disturbances and heart failure. The condition is currently treated by implanting a pacemaker in the patient's chest or abdomen but these devices often fail over time particularly in infants and small children who must undergo many re-operations. Researchers at Children's Hospital Boston have now taken preliminary steps toward using a patient's own cells instead of a pacemaker marking
  • Woah... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 19, 2006 @03:31AM (#15560413)
    I totally read that as "A Peacemaker made from your own cells".

    And I was like, "WTF? How do you make a missile out of a phone?"
    • Re:Woah... (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Pretend it's a chair?
    • They're obviously talking about the processor, duh. You know, the PlayStation 2 was powerful to be used as a cruise missile guiding system. With the Cell being so much more powerful than the PS2's Emotion Engine obviously the PS3 will be powerful enough to replace the entire cruise missile.
  • CRAP! (Score:3, Funny)

    by plasmacutter (901737) on Monday June 19, 2006 @04:02AM (#15560457)
    now no excuse to avoid those magnet things in airports.. *hides bomb* ; )
  • im still waiting for the 'modified' version of the olympics, and any other sports in the future i was talking about ages ago, with this, and 'face implants' and artificial hips and everything, its going to be one hell of a show. .. I mean imagine FIFA 2223
    .. and its brazil and england tied in the last seconds of the match with one of england's modded forwards down for repairs from that blown calf in the first half they are having a hard time keeping brazils top mod Peleisgod away from their nets and Omigod. with only seconds to go he has blown both of his ankles and is head has completely come away from his body .. . "thats the new mod they just let in for the 2222 practice runs that i was telling you about jorja.. if i may butt in". oh really Raymond? ohmygod seconds to go and his head actually reaches the ball at 30 feet and is it?.... it is!.... GOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!! !! BRAZIL HAS WON WITH JUST SECONDS TO GO AND THERE IS THE HORN the fans are going wild with exitement and that is the end of the world cup match for 2223 this year held in new brazil on coming to you live brodcast from the moon we thank all our listeners and sponsers and goodnite ... oh and such a disapointment for england..."

    anyway... i digress. you get the idea.
    • neither FIFA nor Olympic can happen in 2223. /nitpicking

      Go, figure out;)

  • A Pacemaker Made From Your Own Cells

    Aha... They are doing plastic surgery on heart..

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I can't help being reminded of the quote they may say she died of a burst ventricle, but I know she died of a broken heart
  • Duh (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 19, 2006 @07:04AM (#15560698)
    "The implants remained functional through the animals' lifespan"

    Kind of obvious, isn't it?
  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Monday June 19, 2006 @07:21AM (#15560734)
    Ah, this development is a good thing for those that have problems with the "conduction" part of the heart, i.e. the "wires". But in many cases it's not the wires that have gone bad, but the actual signal sources, special cells that generate the 60 millivolt pulses. Or those cells may be fine, but they've lost their connection to the nerves that control the heaart rate.

    In all these cases, you need an electrical pacemaker-- adding conductions cells is unlikely to do anything.

  • I thought this was a cellphone hack story!

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