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Stopping hearts skipping a beat

Health News from New Zealand

Researchers at The University of Auckland have developed a test for Long QT syndrome, a cause of sudden cardiac death, which can now be routinely used by specialist clinicians from around New Zealand and Australasia.

Long QT syndrome is an inherited disorder that can cause sudden cardiac arrhythmia, a significant cause of sudden unexpected death in young people. Each year, around 100 New Zealanders under the age of 40 die suddenly and unexpectedly. About 15% of sudden deaths in 1 to 35 year olds and at least 10% of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) cases are thought to be attributable to Long QT syndrome.

The new tests, developed by a team of researchers at the University’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, allows specialist clinicians to test patients who have suffered from sudden cardiac episodes and their family members to identify those with a defective Long QT gene. Victims of sudden death can be tested for the condition after death if a small blood sample is saved at time of post-mortem. Most cardiac arrhythmias, rapid chaotic hearth rhythms, in people positive for a Long QT gene defect are preventable by a simple medication routine or implantation of a defibrillator pacemaker.

At an event tonight, researchers, clinicians and advocates of Long QT testing will celebrate the development of Long QT testing in the University and its successful transfer to the clinical arena via provision of services for New Zealand by LabPLUS at Auckland City Hospital. Attendees will include families of sudden cardiac victims and representatives from Auckland District Health Board, the University, and the charitable organisation Cure Kids which funded the research and the facilitation of clinical testing at LabPLUS.

These genetic tests are of proven value in saving lives through early recognition of Long QT syndrome and in guiding clinical management,” said Dr Jon Skinner of Starship Children’s Hospital.

This transfer from university to clinical laboratory signifies that the public health service is responding to evidence-based research and is starting to take the prevention of young sudden deaths seriously. This is a welcome forward step. Lives will be saved as a direct consequence of this wise and cost effective action.

 

We are excited that our research has developed a robust clinical test and that cardiac specialists are keen and willing to implement it in their diagnosis and management of patients,” said Associate Professor Andrew Shelling of the University’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

Our ongoing research is looking at other genetic causes of sudden cardiac events, and we hope the use of this, and future tests, will reduce the incidence of sudden death dramatically.”

 

The results from the genetic tests will also benefit the research community by opening up new avenues of biomedical investigation, with the aim of translating this towards best clinical practice for patients and prevention of sudden death in the young,” added Professor Mark Rees, the Cure Kids Visiting Professor of CardioGenomics at Auckland City Hospital and Honorary Senior Fellow at the University.

 

 


Source: Auckland University (New Zealand).

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