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HK to Develop Cardiac Biological Pacemaker

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) briefed the media on its new study plan of developing cardiac biological pacemaker Monday.


According to associate professor of HKU's Faculty of Medicine Tse Hung-fat, there is a trend that more people in Hong Kong are suffering from dysfunction of the sinoatrial node, the native pacemaker, and need to implant an electronic pacemaker to keep their hearts beat normally.


The statistics tell that over 1,000 pacemaker devices were implanted in 2002. The new implant rate per million population increased from 100 in 1997 to 143 in 2001.


However, the currently available electronic pacemakers are having limitations that are likely to cause negative effects to patients.


"The placement site of the stimulating electrode in the heart may have long-term deleterious effects to the cardiac performance. It may also lead to intercurrent infection such as inflammation," said Tse.


Besides, the device is expensive and the battery has a long-but-limited life expectancy, requiring testing and replacement at periodic intervals. To implant a pacemaker, it costs approximately 40,000 HK dollars per patient. Costs are further increased by the need to replace the batteries of these devices every five to 10 years.


HKU is conveying studies in the hope of regenerating a cardiac biological pacemaker using gene therapy and/or bioengineering techniques might a safer alternative to the existing electronic implant.


Researchers proposed to use a combination of state-of-the-art somatic gene transfer and bioengineering techniques to evaluate the physiological contribution of the pacemaker current in cardiac pacing.


The whole study plan will take two years to complete and it would be three years or more before the technology maturely developed and could be used in human.


(Xinhua News Agency August 31, 2004)


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