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Cardiac arrhythmias: ions enable treatment without medication or catheters
Cardiac arrhythmias are a widespread complaint that often requires the long-term use of medication and sometimes even surgery. However, researchers from Heidelberg University, the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research, the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, the Heidelberg Ion Beam Therapy Center, the University of Trento (Italy) and the Mayo Clinic (USA) have developed a new treatment method that does not require medication or surgery gets along.
The researchers use ions against cardiac arrhythmia - with success. In the future, the procedure could make it possible to treat cardiac arrhythmias without medication or an operation, the scientists report in the scientific magazine "Scientific Reports" of the electrical signal, ”said the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research.
Irradiation with carbon ions
The biophysicists at the GSI have developed a procedure together with doctors from Heidelberg University and the Mayo Clinic in which radiation with carbon ions is used to treat cardiac arrhythmias. The method was already known from tumor treatment. However, it can obviously also be used for cardiac arrhythmias. and represents a non-invasive alternative to the previous treatment with cardiac catheters or medication, the scientists report.
Medications or catheter surgery so far common
According to the researchers, around 350,000 patients in Germany suffer from various cardiac arrhythmias, which can lead to a stroke or sudden cardiac death, for example. In the case of cardiac arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia, the heart gets out of its regular rhythm, which is specified by the sinus node as a pulse generator. The heartbeat can then be normalized with medication or by means of a so-called catheter ablation. In the latter, a catheter is passed through the blood vessels to the heart and the corresponding tissue is sclerosed there, the researchers explain.
Feasibility study with a convincing result
Based on the principle of catheter ablation, a treatment without a catheter could also be carried out with ions from the particle accelerator, according to the researchers' approach. In a feasibility study, they therefore checked the use of the method with carbon ions. "After previous tests on cardiac cell cultures and on beating cardiac preparations with promising results, the scientists had prepared an animal study," said the GSI. The results of the study were so convincing that the researchers are now hoping for a timely application in humans.
Targeted treatment possible without a catheter
"The study showed that the method can be successfully used to change heart tissue in such a way that the spread of disturbing impulses is permanently interrupted," reports Dr. Christian Graeff, head of the medical physics group at GSI. "The new method is a big step into the future because it allows us to carry out this treatment for the first time completely without a catheter and yet in a targeted manner" H. Immo Lehmann from the Mayo Clinic.
Significant improvement in treatment
The scientists conclude that irradiation of the tissue with carbon ions could be gentler and potentially more effective than treatment with a catheter. "Once the method is technically mature, an intervention will only take a few minutes compared to the sometimes hours-long catheter procedures" the researchers report. It also offers the main advantage that the penetration depth of the ions is not limited. In particular, the left ventricular wall of the heart, which is particularly thick, often presents difficulties here with catheter obliteration. But it is precisely here that particularly severely affected patients with so-called ventricular tachycardia urgently need to be treated, the doctors explain.
Further studies in preparation
According to the Helmholtz Center, the scientists were able to use many technologies in their study that were originally developed for cancer therapy with ions. With this therapy, which has now become established, many thousands of patients have been treated worldwide in cancer therapy. Now, however, further detailed studies are necessary before the method can be used in patients for the first time, the scientists emphasize. (fp)