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A team of scientists has announced that it will soon be able to treat inherited and life-threatening conditions of the heart muscle to save more young people from sudden cardiac death.
The British Heart Foundation has pledged £30m to genetic researchers who believe they can correct the DNA defect responsible for the damage.
Cardiomyopathy can lead to death without warning.
Many members of the same family are often at risk because of their genes.
Cardiomyopathy often grabs headlines when it leads to sudden cardiac death or cardiac emergencies in young athletes.
And exercise can exacerbate the underlying condition.
Football player Fabrice Mwamba fell on the field at the age of 23 due to heart problems during a game for Bolton in 2012. Doctors managed to revive him, but others died, such as Cameroon football star Marc-Vivien Foy, who died on the field of Age of 28 years.
Members of the research team that won the grant say they are confident that the new gene therapy could be ready for testing in human clinical trials within five years, after the specific genes and genetic defects responsible for various cardiomyopathy and how they work have been discovered.
Scientists are already conducting some experiments on animals and human cells.
They say the new treatment, given through an injection into the arm, could halt heart damage in those who already have hereditary cardiomyopathy.
This treatment can prevent the disease from developing in family members who carry the faulty gene but do not yet have the condition – effectively treating the problem.
Max Jarmy, 27, learned a few years ago that he had inherited a type of hereditary cardiomyopathy. This condition – known medically as arrhythmic right ventricular dysplasia – caused his father’s death when Max was 13.
Max’s younger brother, Tom, also suffers from the same disorder.
Max says he’s trying to focus on what he can do, rather than the things he can’t do because of his condition, although he says he has stopped playing some sports as a precaution.
He was fitted with an implantable defibrillator, which can shock his heart back to its normal rhythm, protecting him from cardiac arrest.
It’s the same device that was fitted to England cricketer James Taylor, who also suffers from arrhythmic right ventricular dysplasia.
“I am very strong mentally,” Max said, “but the first six months after my diagnosis were very difficult.”
“I think the only way to deal with my diagnosis is to accept it and accept the fact that I can’t control it,” he added.
Max hopes to participate in the Cure Heart Project’s trial of the new treatment.
“When I think about my future, about the decision to have children and their future, Cure Heart can make that decision easier, because it may never make my children suffer from the condition I do,” he says. “It would completely change my life.”
“This project gives me hope,” he adds.
Cardiomyopathy is a disease in which the heart muscle is usually weakened or distorted and is functionally impaired. This can cause symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath or heart palpitations, and often leads to heart failure.
Although the symptoms of cardiomyopathy can be controlled with some medications or devices such as pacemakers or surgery, there is currently no cure for heart failure.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, said: “This is a defining moment for cardiovascular medicine, as CureHeart may not only be the first treatment for inherited heart muscle disease by manipulating killer genes that pass through the family tree, it could be It also ushered in a new era for finding treatments for micro-cardiac diseases.”
“Once this is successful, the same gene-editing innovations can be used to treat a whole range of common heart conditions in which genetic defects play a major role. This will have a huge impact and give hope to the thousands of families suffering from these killer diseases around the world.”