HEART DISEASE II: ‘Sudden Death’ Arrhythmia Gene Found
Researchers are one step closer to understanding a heart rhythm abnormality responsible for 5% to 15% of all sudden deaths among people under age 35. The AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports that researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, have located the gene for arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), a condition often undiagnosed until autopsy reveals its effect on the heart. Armed with new knowledge of the gene's general location, researchers are optimistic that continued studies will yield a screening test to identify ARVD patients and implant defibrillators to restore normal heart rhythms. Dr. Robert Roberts led the study, published in today's issue of Circulation, which examined a Canadian family with a high incidence of the condition. Roberts and his colleagues were able to "narro[w] down the location of the mutant gene to an area of chromosome 3" (Koenig, 12/22). The genetically dominant disease affects one in 5,000 people, but Dr. Douglas Zipes, director of the Krannert Institute of Cardiology in Indianapolis, "said the disorder may be more common that doctors realize because diagnosis is difficult and often is confirmed only by autopsy." The Houston Chronicle reports that AVRD patients experience degeneration of the right ventricle as heart muscle cells experience programmed cell death "and are replaced with fatty, fibrous tissue." The fatty tissue disrupts the electric circuitry in the heart, and can prompt "fatal disruptions in the heart's rhythm" (Hopper, 12/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.