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Researchers Find The First Evidence For Painless Atrial Fibrillation Treatment

Update Date: Jul 06, 2014 04:17 PM EDT

Researchers have found the first evidence for a shock-less treatment for atrial fibrillation (AF), according to a new study.

AF usually progresses from a paroxysmal form. In this form, episodes of AF last from several minutes up to 7 days to a persistent and eventually a chronic form. 

"AF is the most common cardiac arrhythmia. Symptoms range from the feeling of fish flapping in the chest, to tiredness and exercise intolerance. AF can lead to tachycardia induced cardiomyopathy and thromboembolic events which increase the risk of morbidity and death," said Dr Brian O. Bingen, first author, in the press release.

"Preventing these symptoms and complications requires bringing the patient out of AF and back to the normal sinus rhythm. The quickest way to do that is to deliver an electric shock. The shock depolarises and synchronises the heart muscle and allows the sinus node to re-establish a normal rhythm."

Researchers for the current study, developed a method for shock-less defibrillation. With the help of optogenetics, researchers genetically inserted depolarizing ion channels into the heart that can be activated by light. 

"The theory was that we could just turn a light switch on and depolarise the entire myocardium without needing a shock. In theory, the patient could be given an implantable device with a mesh of light emitting diodes (LEDs) and when AF occurs you turn the light on and the AF stops," Dr, Bingen added.

Researchers will present the detailed study at the meeting Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology (FCVB) 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.

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