Induced pacemaker heart cells could take the place of man made pacemakers

Scientists at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute have successfully reprogrammed ordinary heart cells to become exact replicas of so-called “pacemaker” heart cells. Such replica cells could conceivably one day be used instead of electronic pacemakers, in patients with heart disease.
Also known as SAN cells, pacemaker cells constitute about 10,000 of the human heart’s approximately 10 billion total cells. They generate coordinated electrical impulses that result in rhythmic contractions of the heart muscle – in other words, they allow the heart to beat. If something goes wrong with them, the implantation of an electronic pacemaker is often required … for now.
The scientists reprogrammed regular, non-SAN guinea pig heart cells by injecting them with a gene known as Tbx18. The resulting induced SAN cells – or iSAN cells – reportedly had all the key features and functionality of native SAN cells. Even after the effects of the Tbx18 injection faded, those characteristics remained intact.
Previous studies have also succeeded in modifying regular heart cells to behave in a pacemaker-like fashion, although those cells were reportedly still more like regular heart cells than SAN cells. Pacemaker cells have also been created from embryonic stem cells, although using such cells could introduce a risk of cancer.