Although scientists have engaged in other researches before and created some other pacemakers, this was the first study that indicated that the muscle cells of the heart may actually be converted in to real pacemaker cells. The resulting or the created cells lead to electrical impulses generation from the cells of the ‘original’ pacemaker. The new cells spontaneous electrical impulses generation was simply indistinguishable from those of the pacemaker cells themselves.

What do the pacemaker cells do?

Pacemaker cells are responsible for the generation of electrical impulses that penetrates into the cells of the heart in defined patterns to induce contractions that are rhythmic, as it happens in a healthy individual. Where these heart cells develop certain flaws for various reasons, the beating of the heart becomes erratic at its best, necessitating immediate treatment. In such a state, patients who are healthy enough to undergo a cardiovascular surgery only relies on an artificial pacemaker to survive.

The origin of the heartbeats is at the Sinoatrial Node (SAN) located at the upper chamber at the right of the heart that are clustered with about ten billion pacemaker cells. However, of all the cells of the heart, only about ten thousand of them are active pacemaker cells, commonly referred to as the SAN cells in the medical field. After reprogramming with the Tbx18 gene, the new cells, known as the iSAN cells (induced Sinoatrial Node) cells possessed all the characteristic features of the initial pacemaker tissue cells and retained them even after the fading of the gene’s effects.

In the breakthrough research, the investigators made use of a tailored virus that carried the Tbx18 gene that facilitated the development of the embryonic cells of the pacemaker, directly reprogramming the cells of the heart muscle known as the cardiomyocytes into dedicated and special pacemaker cells. The created cells assumed the characteristics of the native cells. The features and functionality became a success in the lab’s programmable procedures and in studies involving guinea pigs.

Created cells similar to the normal muscle cells

In other researches previously conducted, resultant pacemaker cells induced developed muscle cells of the heart that could independently cause heartbeats. However, these created cells showed more similarity to normal muscle cells rather than the intended pacemaker cells. Such cells were also developed by employing cells of embryonic stems. The risk factor with pacemaker cells developed from such approaches is that they have high susceptibility to cancerous conditions. The Cedars study creates cells with close resemblance to the native pacemakers without the risk of casinogenic conditions.

The decades’ study work is an alternative to electronic pacemaker devices. If subsequent researches will confirm and support this pacemaker cells study, then it will be the hope of heart attack patients. According to the researchers, the therapy may involve administering through injection or by laboratory developing the cells and then transplant them into a patient’s heart. More research needs to be carried out before human trials kick off.