From 9th to 11th September 2011, leading heart specialists will discuss topics such as possibilities of testing the genetic material for gene mutations of sudden cardiac death. Moreover, they will present new findings which help to enhance biologically produced heart valves.
In 2007, researchers discussed about congenital heart defects at the first expert workshop in Heidelberg. Each year, approximately 900 physically active people die of sudden cardiac death. The most frequent cause is a defect in the junctions between heart muscle cells, which – much like velcro fasteners – give the heart support. During intense exercise the heart can no longer bear the powerful contractions and starts twitching in an uncontrolled manner – a life-threatening state. A lot has been done in this area since then. The U.S. National Institutes of Health have founded a specialized diagnosis company (GeneDx). Since 2009, patients at risk can be tested there for the gene mutations of sudden cardiac death. Patients judged at high risk can have a sensor implanted which recognizes when an attack is imminent. In this case it will activate a small defibrillator.
This year, scientists at the workshop will also focus on the cell types of the heart valves. Children and adults with defective heart valves usually have problems finding the right prosthesis. Above all, their heart valve prosthesis must not be rejected by their body. In addition, it should adapt itself to the body and, ideally, grow with it. New methods known as “bioengineering” may soon make it possible to biologically engineer such valves. “The heart valve will then be immunocompatible and will continue growing in the body,” says Werner Franke. “This method may be fully employable in the near future – from the infant to the 80-year-old.” In bioengineering, scientists apply methods and principles from engineering and natural sciences to cells and tissues. They are now even using a printer that can print three-dimensional biological tissue.
Further topics include hereditary cardiac arrhythmias and the identification of familial Newfoundland gene constellation, a recently observed genetic alteration in sudden cardiac death. It has an above-average incidence in Newfoundland and has now been discovered for the first time in Germany.
This year’s workshop on the topic of “Cell and Molecular Biology of the Adhering Junctions and their Functions in the Heart” is the second of three scheduled expert roundtables on the topic of the heart. Journalists are cordially invited to attend.
Location: Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum Kommunikationszentrum Im Neuenheimer Feld 280 69120 Heidelberg
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