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Stem Cells Could Replace Electronic Pacemakers

Electronic pacemakers, cannot react to situations like the heart's own can, such as raising the heart rate when a person is scared or about to climb up a hill but researchers say a pacemaker created by // stem cells may bypass this problem.

Animal studies have shown that genetically engineered heart cells from human embryonic stem cells could lead to a biological form of pacemaker, according to a new study. Researchers injected clusters of human beating heart cells (derived from human embryonic stem cells) into the heart muscle of six guinea pigs. The stem cells were first genetically engineered and then encouraged to become heart cells.

Results show after the guinea pigs' own pace-making cells were destroyed (through freezing), electrical measurements revealed a new heartbeat (slower) created by the addition of the human cells. The new electrical signal was traced to the human cells, made easier to locate by their fluorescent glow.The implanted cells also responded appropriately to drugs used to slow or speed the heart rate, which pacemakers can't do however researchers say many challenges remain before this technique could be used for patients.

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