Research programme to probe causes of unexplained cardiac arrest

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A research programme into understanding the underlying causes of unexplained cardiac arrest has received significant backing from the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

The four-year project, which is a collaboration between researchers from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, will study the largest group of unexplained cardiac arrest survivors. The researchers will perform in-depth genetic testing of over 1,000 patients to uncover inheritable risk factors for cardiac arrest.

With one in twenty people who suffer a life-threatening heart rhythm abnormality having no clear explanation why, it is hoped that the new research programme will identify the genes playing a role. The research group hope by doing this, they will be able to highlight new and improved ways to prevent sudden death in patients and their relatives.

Chief UK investigator and professor of cardiovascular medicine at St George’s, University of London, London, UK, Elijah Behr, said: “By identifying potential causes of unexplained cardiac arrest, we’ll be better able to predict people at risk and put preventative and monitoring measures in place.

“This is the largest study of its kind and complements the work we have already done to understand the causes and mechanisms of sudden cardiac death. By working with survivors and their families, we hope to add to this knowledge and provide novel diagnostic approaches and possible treatments.”

The collaborative effort will play to the strengths of each institution. The UK group will look to identify possible genetic causes in patients, while the Dutch and German groups will study the underlying mechanisms in mice and stem cells respectively.

Professor Behr added: “Each site will bring their own expertise to the study, providing a pathway from gene identification to possible mechanism of action. If we can identify novel targets for drug therapies, be they existing drugs or new ones, this could provide new and better treatment options for patients with cardiac conditions.”

This research will be funded as part of a BHF Special Project, with joint funding from the BHF, the German Centre for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) and the Dutch Heart Foundation (DHF).


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