Scientists identify key to slowing the clock for people with abnormally fast heart beats

August 9, 2018, Hiroshima University
The HCN4 SNP rs7164883 independently increases risk of heart failure in patients with atrial fibrillation. Credit: Hiroshima University

Scientists in Japan have found a potential marker to identify which people with abnormally fast heartbeats are at high risk of developing heart failure.

The results were published in June in Circulation: Genomic and Precision Medicine, a journal from the American Heart Association.

Atrial , or chronically, abnormally fast heartbeat, can be a symptom of a potentially fatal disease known as tachycardia-induced cardiomyopathy (TIC). The condition can be reversed and damage can be prevented, but only if the heartbeat is brought back into proper rhythm through drugs or catheter therapy. TIC is currently only diagnosed after ruling out other potential disorders, and little is known about risk factors for TIC, according to study author Yukiko Nakano, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Biomedical & Health Sciences at Hiroshima University.

Now her team has taken a step toward diagnosing and treating the condition more quickly. The researchers identified a that indicates when a person with a fast heartbeat is more likely to develop TIC and, eventually, heart failure. Heart disease is the third cause of death in Japan, according to the World Health Organization.

"Atrial fibrillation is the most common cause of TIC in without a history of structural heart diseases," Nakano wrote. "Poorly controlled ventricular rates may worsen ventricular function, but only a fraction of patients with develop TIC."

Previous studies have identified 26 genetic variants associated with atrial fibrillation. Of these, only two are cardiac ion channel genes, which help regulate the heart's conduction. The gene HCN4 is the only one that is known to have a critical function in the autonomic control of heart rate, so Nakano and her team investigated how small changes in the gene could indicate a greater risk for developing heart failure in a study of 73 patients. The genetically different HCN4 marks which patients are at increased risk for heart failure.

While the researchers plan to further validate their results with a larger study cohort, they're hopeful that they're on the right track to help people at risk for cardiac damage or even death.

"We will be able to distinguish the high-risk atrial fibrillation patients developing heart failure and consider [them] for early therapeutic intervention," Nakano said. "We can prevent their by stricter heart rate control or early rhythm control [using currently available heart devices and drugs]."

Nakano also said that this genetic marker could potentially serve as a therapeutic target for the development of a drug to help patients with atrial fibrillation maintain or restore a healthy heart rhythm.

Explore further: Obesity might raise your risk for A-fib

More information: HCN4 Gene polymorphisms are Associated with Occurrence of Tachycardia Induced Cardiomyopathy in Patients with Atrial Fibrillation. Circulation: Genomic and Precision Medicine, July 2018. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCGEN.117.001980

Related Stories

Obesity might raise your risk for A-fib

May 9, 2018
(HealthDay)—Obese people are at increased risk for the heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation, which can cause complications such as heart failure and stroke.

Big-data study pinpoints more than 150 genes associated with atrial fibrillation

August 2, 2018
Drawing on genomic data from more than one million individuals, researchers from the University of Michigan have led a large collaborative effort to discover as-yet unknown genetic risk factors for atrial fibrillation: an ...

Patients who have had an irregular heart beat can't ever be considered 'cured'

May 10, 2018
Patients with an abnormal heart rhythm that can leave them at a higher risk of suffering from stroke still need treatment even after their heart rhythm seems to have returned to normal, say researchers at the University of ...

Ablation better than medical Tx for A-fib with heart failure

February 1, 2018
(HealthDay)—Among patients with atrial fibrillation and heart failure, catheter ablation is associated with a significant reduction in a composite end point of death from any cause or hospitalization for worsening heart ...

Short episodes of abnormal heart rhythm may not increase risk of stroke

October 17, 2016
People with pacemakers or defibrillators who experience only short episodes of an abnormal heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation have a very low risk of stroke, suggesting that anticoagulants in this group of patients ...

Obesity linked with higher chance of developing rapid, irregular heart rate

April 18, 2018
People with obesity are more likely to develop a rapid and irregular heart rate, called atrial fibrillation, which can lead to stroke, heart failure and other complications, according to Penn State researchers.

Recommended for you

As body mass index increases, blood pressure may as well

August 17, 2018
Body mass index is positively associated with blood pressure, according to the ongoing study of 1.7 million Chinese men and women being conducted by researchers at the Yale Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CORE) ...

Gout could increase heart disease risk

August 17, 2018
Having a type of inflammatory arthritis called gout may worsen heart-related outcomes for people being treated for coronary artery disease, according to new research.

Stroke patients treated at a teaching hospital are less likely to be readmitted

August 17, 2018
Stroke patients appear to receive better care at teaching hospitals with less of a chance of landing back in a hospital during the early stages of recovery, according to new research from The University of Texas Health Science ...

Cardiovascular disease related to type 2 diabetes can be reduced significantly

August 16, 2018
Properly composed treatment and refraining from cigarette consumption can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease resulting from type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the New England Journal of ...

Genomic autopsy can help solve unexplained cardiac death

August 15, 2018
Molecular autopsies can reveal genetic risk factors in young people who unexpectedly die, but proper interpretation of the results can be challenging, according to a recent study published in Circulation.

Neonatal pig hearts can heal from heart attack

August 15, 2018
While pigs still cannot fly, researchers have discovered that the hearts of newborn piglets do have one remarkable ability. They can almost completely heal themselves after experimental heart attacks.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.