Life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias: How calcium keeps the heart in rhythm

Life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias: How calcium keeps the heart in rhythm

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Calcium keeps the heart in rhythm

According to estimates by health experts, around two to three million people in Germany suffer from heart failure (heart failure). In the course of this disease, the calcium balance in the heart changes. Life-threatening arrhythmias can occur. Researchers have now figured out how to reduce calcium loss.

Up to three million Germans suffer from heart failure

Two to three million people in Germany suffer from heart failure (heart failure), and more than 386,000 heart failure patients are admitted to a clinic every year. As a result of this disease, the heart is no longer able to provide the body with sufficient blood and oxygen. If the disease is not recognized and treated in good time, in most cases, patients die from failure of the mechanical function of the heart or from severe cardiac arrhythmias, which ultimately lead to cardiac arrest. Researching the basic processes of the heart is therefore of central importance for a better understanding of the disease. German scientists have now gained new insights into this.

Calcium balance in the heart changes

As explained in a communication from the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG), the calcium balance in the heart changes in the course of a weak heart.

The cause is therefore a leak in an internal calcium storage, the so-called sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) over the cardiac ryanodine receptor (RyR2). The SR loses more calcium during the filling phase of the heart (diastole).

So far it has not been clarified what significance the SR leak has for the progression of the disease and the occurrence of dangerous rhythm disorders.

Improve survival significantly

UMG cardiac researchers have investigated how treatment for the SR leak affects heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia.

The "Cardiac Remodeling" working group headed by Prof. Dr. Karl Toischer, Clinic for Cardiology and Pneumology of the UMG, was able to show in the animal model that the permanent administration of the specific RyR2 stabilizer S36 reduces the calcium loss in the heart cells and thus causes a decrease in cardiac arrhythmias.

"S36 could thus be of clinical benefit as an anti-arrhythmic drug and significantly improve survival," said Professor Toischer.

The results of the research work of the Göttingen scientists were published in the scientific journal “Science Translational Medicine”.

Reduction of life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias

As stated in the UMG communication, calcium controls the contraction in the heart, influences the electrical currents and is therefore directly connected to the heart rhythm.

Therefore, the Göttingen researchers assumed that the calcium leak in the SR not only promoted the progression of heart failure, but could also be involved in the development of rhythm disorders.

The animal experiment showed that sealing the calcium leak by administering the new and very specific active ingredient S36 improved survival in the case of heart failure.

However, contrary to what was previously assumed, the slow development of heart failure was not responsible for this, since the heart function did not improve. Even an increase in the SR leak did not affect the progress of heart failure.

Rather, it turned out that a reduction in life-threatening arrhythmia is the cause of improved survival.

Future scientific studies will test whether S36 is suitable as a drug for the treatment of rhythm disorders.

Basis for the development of new therapeutic approaches

"For the first time it could be shown that the leakage of the sarcoplasmic reticulum leads to life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias", says Prof. Gerd Hasenfuß, director of the clinic for cardiology and pneumology and chairman of the heart center of the UMG.

"At the same time, a new group of medications for the treatment of leaks and rhythm disorders could be identified," said the expert.

"The published results are an excellent basis for the development of new therapeutic approaches for the treatment of arrhythmias." (Ad)

Author and source information

Video: Cardiac Arrhythmias - Atrial u0026 Ventricular Fibrillation - Tachycardia u0026 Bradycardia (August 2022).