Local cardiac research unlocking keys to heart disease

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The Masonic Medical Research Laboratory (MMRL) is at a new threshold of discovery that will create a paradigm shift in how we fight and treat disease. No longer will we treat disease based on symptoms presented but rather at the root cause.

The molecular genetics program identifies the genetic basis for life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats. Working with clinicians, from all over the world, the MMRL receives blood samples for genetic analysis from members of families that are afflicted with sudden cardiac death syndrome.

Not only has the MMRL been able to discover gene mutations but the ability to identify drugs that can be used to prevent death in a number of these syndromes.

As our population continues to age, incidences of atrial fibrillation (A-fib) are reaching epidemic proportions in the United States with over 2.7 million affected. Projections indicate that its prevalence will increase to 15 million by 2050. MMRL scientists working with a biotechnology company have developed a new treatment that has been shown to be highly effective. Phase III clinical are expected to begin within the next 18 months. It is important to note that the MMRL scientists are also working to identify gene defects that can predispose young individuals to A-fib.

As MMRL researchers deepen our understanding regarding heart function, they are also looking to transform lives through stem cell research as well as tissue and bio-engineering.

Stem cells are cells in the human body that can change into any other cell type. Because stem cells can become blood cells, muscle, bone, cartilage and other specialized cells, they have the potential to treat a wide variety of diseases, including leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.

These induced pluripotent stem cells hold promise for enabling regeneration of whole organs, bringing organ transplantation medicine to new heights. Stem cells may also hold the key to custom-designed medical therapy to treat cardiac arrhythmias disease.

For the first time, researchers are able to create human models of disease that will provide valuable new insights into the development of patient-specific medical therapy.

Over 5 million Americans suffer from congestive heart failure. It is one of the most common reasons people 65 and older are hospitalized.

Treatment options are limited and do not prevent the progression of the disease. In most cases, organ transplantation is the only option, yet the availability of hearts is insufficient to meet the demand.

Tragically, too many Americans die every year waiting for a donor heart.

The MMRL is a not-for-profit 501c3 that provides hope to millions of individuals worldwide afflicted with heart disease.

The MMRL welcomes people’s investment and partnership in our future health, that of our children, family friends and the generations to come — 100% of all donations and bequests received stay local. Visit www.mmrl.edu to learn more.

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