Physiological stressors can affect the heart in various ways. A new study from the Masonic Medical Research Institute (MMRI) found that it’s not uncommon for people to live without any knowledge of an underlying genetic heart condition until a stressor brings it to the surface. Just one external impact such as a heart attack is all it takes to induce the expression of heart diseases later in life.
For the study, Dr. Jonathan Cordeiro and his team used fibroblasts (skin cells) from a patient who had been electrocuted to generate human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC). This type of cell can be directed to any type of cell such as heart cells to study disease.
Stem cells are helpful in research as they are patient specific. Not everyone responds to a drug, but with access to a patient’s cells, it can be determined how cardiomyocytes respond to drug treatment. This can allow for more personalized and patient-specific treatment programs.
Through the use of hiPSC and a combination of other techniques such as calcium imaging and electrophysiology, genetic mutations that cause cardiac arrhythmias can be traced. By utilizing these testing techniques, physicians may be able to find patients who carry mutations and more effectively treat the conditions which could otherwise lead to sudden cardiac death.
“This study is an excellent example of investigators from different areas of expertise working together to resolve a common problem. It was enjoyable to work with the other co-authors,” said Jacqueline Treat.
This study was based on one patient who was severely electrocuted in a work accident. After the accident, he began exhibiting signs of multiple cardiac arrhythmias.
In this situation, electrocution was the physiological stressor that resulted in long-term cardiac alterations. The patient was shown to carry several genetic mutations linked to Early Repolarization Syndrome and Short QT Syndrome, two severe cardiac arrhythmia conditions that can lead to sudden cardiac death.
While avoiding a physiological stressor may be out of your control, maintaining a healthy heart lifestyle can go a long way to keeping any underlying conditions away.