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Creation of a Biological Pacemaker

Associate Professor Eddy Kizana, Institution: University of Sydney

2019 Vanguard Grant

Years funded: 2020-2021


Electronic pacemakers are the current standard of care for patients with symptomatic bradycardia. These devices require surgery for implantation, are prone to complications and their batteries become depleted. This project will advance the technologies required for biological pacing by gene therapy to the point of human application by the use of clinically relevant vectors and key-hole delivery approaches in a pre-clinical model of bradycardia.

Creation of biological pacemakers by gene transfer has progressed over the last 15 years from proof- of-principle to exciting pre-clinical studies. The seductive appeal of a focal gene injection converting quiescent heart muscle into a pacemaker has investigators world-wide feverishly working to achieve first-in-man status. The aims of this project are to achieve a safe, effective and durable biological pacemaker that has the unique prospect of supplementing and even possibly replacing electronic pacemakers. This project will lead to the development of tools and methods to overcome the barriers to clinical application of this technology including: methods for minimally invasive delivery of vectors for gene transfer and refinement of the vector for optimal biological pacemaker function.

The research team have created a sheep model of chronic heart block with implanted electronic pacemakers that will serve as an ideal model for testing biological pacemakers. The team and participating institutions make this project internationally competitive and within reach of clinical translation. Our host institute has a unique, clinical-grade, large animal cardiac catheter laboratory with federal regulatory body approvals to undertake the required experiments. Furthermore, we will be in a very strong position for transition to early- phase human studies via access to the NSW Office of Health and Medical Research-funded gene therapy vector production facility.

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