A study recently published in Cell Stem Cell has shown that using human stem cells in combination with medical chemistry can improve existing medications to treat genetic disorders. Dr. Alfred George Jr. has stated that these findings will quicken the process of developing treatments for genetic heart disorders, such as long QT syndrome.
About Long QT Syndrome
Long QT syndrome is a rare heart rhythm condition that is characterized by fast, chaotic heartbeats. These heartbeats can cause seizures, fainting, and even death. Episodes typically coincide with sleeping or waking up. All of these symptoms are the result of a change in the heart’s electrical recharging system, which can be the result of a genetic abnormality, taking certain medications, and low levels of magnesium, potassium, or calcium in the blood. In order to combat the episodes of chaotic heartbeats, doctors can prescribe potassium, fish oil, beta blockers, pacemakers, and mexiletine. Left cardiac sympathetic denervation surgery is another option.
Dr. George and his colleagues believe that human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) can provide a great benefit in the screening of new drugs. While testing new medications with hiPSCs is a new strategy that still needs to be fine-tuned, it is a method that could be very useful for genetic cardiac disorders.
In fact, researchers used this method to examine a common treatment for cardiac disorders: mexiletine. They utilized high-throughput screening in hiPSC cardiac cells to test multiple derivatives of the treatment. They found five of the derivatives to be successful.
The hope is that medical professionals will be able to piece these derivatives together to create the best possible treatment, which they could use hiPSCs to test. Looking beyond just genetic cardiac disorders, this method could be applied to various other conditions as well.
To learn more about this process, click here.