Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists solve chaotic heartbeat mystery

06.02.2003


Fatal, electrical chaos can develop in the hearts of otherwise healthy people who produce a defective accessory protein called ankyrin-B, reports W. Jonathan Lederer of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) and collaborators, in the February 6 issue of the scientific journal Nature.



By discovering the molecular and cellular causes of the electrical chaos-known as Long QT Syndrome Type 4, or LQT4-Lederer and collaborators open the door to possible therapies and diagnostics for this and related heart diseases. The work also provides a clue to how important, specific proteins are organized within heart cells.

Several years ago, clinical researchers in France, headed by Denis Escande, discovered an inheritance pattern in members of a family who had been dying suddenly and unexpectedly in the prime of life. Lederer’s team at UMBI and the University of Maryland at Baltimore and researchers at Duke University, headed by Vann Bennett, collaborated with the French by applying state-of-the-art heart physiology tools to mouse heart cells in order to find the cause of the sudden deaths.


Cardiovascular disease, including cardiac arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death and stroke are the leading causes of death worldwide. The term QT in LQT4 and other long QT syndromes refers to a time period, normally about 300 milliseconds (read between points Q and T on an electrocardiogram) when each electrical pulse, or action potential, starts a heart beat. Longer QT periods can signal heart problems.

The researchers discovered that the LQT4 is linked to a genetic defect in humans and in a mutant mouse developed by the Bennett laboratory. The defect is expressed as an inadequate amount of an important adaptor protein called ankyrin-B that is involved in enriching cells with key proteins at specific locations within the cell. Lederer’s group studied the dynamic physiology of single cells in the Bennett mouse.

The reduction or absence of functional ankyrin-B in the cells causes proteins involved in cellular calcium regulation to be inadequate or absent from critical locations within the cell. Cells load up with too much calcium. The change in calcium causes the heart to beat improperly and, in the case of LQT4, chaotically. The electrical chaos that can cause death appears to be triggered by unexpected stress and possibly an increase in adrenaline - as would happen when individuals are startled, says Lederer. Even then, the death-causing electrical chaos is rare.

Humans and animals are afflicted with LQT4 when only one of the two genes for ankyrin-B is defective or absent. When both are absent, the condition is lethal.

However, says Lederer, many individuals survive for a long time with the defect. The rare occurrence of the development of calcium-dependent electrical chaos in the heart means that most individuals have normal heart behavior even when they are afflicted with LQT4.

Finding the defective protein to be ankyrin-B was somewhat of a surprise, says Lederer, a world leader in studies ion channels and calcium sparks in heart cells. "We thought it would make sense if the defective protein were a channel protein. The other long QT syndromes are caused by defects in channel proteins. This is the first example of a cytoskeletal or structural protein causing such an arrhythmia."

Lederer and his team collaborated with other primary investigators from Duke University and the Howard Hughes Institute headed by Vann Bennett and Peter Mohler and with investigators at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Nantes, France, headed by Denis Escande. Key local investigators on the Lederer team included S. Guatimosim, L-S. Song and K. Dilly from MBC and T. B. Rogers and W. duBell from the School of Medicine at University of Maryland, Baltimore.


The University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute was mandated by the state of Maryland legislature in 1985 as "a new paradigm of state economic development in biotech-related sciences." With five major research and education centers across Maryland, UMBI is dedicated to advancing the frontiers of biotechnology. The centers are the Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology in Rockville; Center for Biosystems Research in College Park; and Center of Marine Biotechnology, Medical Biotechnology Center, and the Institute of Human Virology, all in Baltimore.


Steve Berberich | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umbi.umd.edu/

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The spin state story: Observation of the quantum spin liquid state in novel material

New insight into the spin behavior in an exotic state of matter puts us closer to next-generation spintronic devices

Aside from the deep understanding of the natural world that quantum physics theory offers, scientists worldwide are working tirelessly to bring forth a...

Im Focus: Excitation of robust materials

Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class

In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

Im Focus: The lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.

Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...

Im Focus: Gentle wall contact – the right scenario for a fusion power plant

Quasi-continuous power exhaust developed as a wall-friendly method on ASDEX Upgrade

A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

X-ray scattering shines light on protein folding

10.07.2020 | Life Sciences

Looking at linkers helps to join the dots

10.07.2020 | Materials Sciences

Surprisingly many peculiar long introns found in brain genes

10.07.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>