$2.2 Million Grant to Fund Drug Development for Cardiac Arrhythmia and Sudden Cardiac Death

H. Peter Larsson, Ph.D., professor of physiology and biophysics, and Derek Dykxhoorn, Ph.D., associate professor in the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, have been awarded a $2.2 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to develop drugs to prevent cardiac arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death.

Mutations that decrease the activity of certain proteins in the heart, called voltage-gated potassium channels, cause Long QT Syndrome, which predisposes people to cardiac arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death. Currently, there is no FDA-approved drug to restore the function of mutated potassium channels that cause Long QT Syndrome. Patients who display cardiac arrhythmia are prescribed beta blockers and have a cardioverter defibrillator implanted to restore proper beating of the heart and prevent sudden cardiac death.

Larsson’s group recently identified a group of drugs, based on fatty acids (such as fish oils), that can restore the function of mutated potassium channels that cause Long QT Syndrome. These findings were recently published in two papers — one in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and one in eLife.

The new grant focuses on the development of a drug that, taken orally like a fish-oil pill, will restore the function of the mutated potassium channels in the heart and, as a result, prevent the development of cardiac arrhythmia. This would be a much less expensive and less intrusive treatment for Long QT Syndrome than the current standard treatment involving cardioverter defibrillator implantation, say the researchers.

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