Researchers at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) have identified a previously unknown mechanism for atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most common cardiac arrhythmia which kills nearly 200,000 people every year, the first stage toward finding a cure.
Researchers conducted genetic studies on three generations of a Jewish family of Iranian descent, recognizing that mutation in a gene (KCND2) pathologically encodes a crucial component of a potassium ion channel (Kv4.2) in the heart.
Based on these findings, the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev (NIBN) and the Faculty of Health Sciences on BGU’s campus are in the preliminary stages of developing an anti-arrhythmia medication.
Genetic studies in frogs and mutant mice demonstrated that the mutation increases the conductivity of the channel, significantly proliferating the onset of atrial fibrillation.
Molecular and genetic studies were conducted by Max Drabkin, an MD-PhD student from the Joyce and Irving Goldman Medical School, mentored by Prof. Ohad Birk, head of Soroka University Medical Center’s Genetics Institute.
Clinical studies involving the family of Iranian descent were conducted by Prof. Amos Katz, cardiologist and Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at BGU, and Dr. Menahem Sasson, the family’s physician.