Radiation Therapy to Rejuvenate Sick Heart Cells

Category Health

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Doctors are researching radiation therapy to rejuvenate sick heart cells, reduce the risk of sudden cardiac arrest, and provide viable options for life-threatening irregular heartbeats, in a more efficient one-time session. A study headed by Dr. Phillip Cuculich and Dr. Clifford Robinson, sponsored by Varian, is to investigate the safety and effectiveness of the procedure.

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A rapid heartbeat known as ventricular tachycardia is a significant contributor to sudden cardiac arrest, causing around 300,000 fatalities annually in the United States. Traditional therapies for this condition involve locating and ablating the faulty tissue with catheters or inserting a defibrillator as a precautionary measure.

However, medical experts are currently examining radiation therapy as a non-invasive substitute, although this approach is still in its early stages of research.

The radiation used is the same type used in cancer treatment.

Doctors are exploring radiation therapy to reprogram malfunctioning heart cells and regulate heart rhythms that resemble those of younger, healthier cells. This experimental study uses the same type of radiation employed in cancer treatment to manage life-threatening irregular heartbeats. Damage from a previous heart attack often causes this excessively fast heartbeat.

Traditional treatments for this condition include ablating the faulty tissue through catheterization or placing a defibrillator as a backup. Nonetheless, these remedies may not work for every patient, and the problem may reoccur.

It takes about 15 minutes for the procedure to be completed.

Dr. Phillip Cuculich, a heart rhythm expert at Washington University, partnered with Dr. Clifford Robinson, a specialist in targeted radiation therapy for cancer patients who prioritizes preserving healthy tissues. Their radiation therapy treatment involves donning a vest with roughly 250 electrodes to obtain an enhanced electrocardiogram (EKG) that measures the heart's electrical activity. Combining this data with detailed medical imaging creates a 3D map pinpointing the location of the heart's rhythm disruption. Patients remain motionless in the same machine used to treat cancer, listening to music while customized beams focus on the affected area. The procedure may last only 15 minutes, providing an efficient solution.

Varian is sponsoring the study to determine radiation therapy's safety and effectiveness.

"It’s really important that we get this right ... that we figure out what the safe doses are and if there’s areas that we should be worried about," Cuculich said.

The scientists observed that reactivating the Notch signaling pathway, which is responsible for shaping the electrical system of a developing heart, is a vastly different approach from how multiple doses of radiation are used to eradicate tumors. The procedure has since been taught to numerous medical institutions in the United States and other countries.

The procedure reactivates the Notch signaling pathway which is responsible for the electrical system of a developing heart.

Researchers are set to launch the first extensive investigation to determine if a one-time radiation therapy session is safe and effective in treating severe irregular heartbeats. Varian is sponsoring the study, which will involve about 400 patients randomly assigned to receive either radiation therapy or another catheter ablation technique. The FDA necessitates more substantial evidence for more routine usage, although radiation therapy has been granted permission for specific cases. The study aims to provide more concrete evidence for radiation therapy as a viable option for patients with life-threatening irregular heartbeats.

The radiation therapy focuses on the affected area to preserve healthy tissue.

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