The Human Heart May Have a Natural ‘Backup Battery’

Researchers say they’ve found a system in the human heart that allows the organ to restart itself. Their discovery could lead to the replacement of pacemakers.

In an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Lt. Worf is badly injured, but recovers when it is discovered that his body holds a lot of redundant parts and organs — for example, 23 ribs — that allow him to regenerate.

Science fiction?

Not entirely.

A team of researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center discovered that the human heart contains its own fail-safe backup “battery” system to regulate the heartbeat.

Their findings were published in Science Translational Medicine.

If further testing is successful, fewer people might need mechanical pacemakers in the future.

The potential market is big.

More than 200,000 people in the United States have a pacemaker implanted every year.

Our natural ‘pacemakers’

The research is still preliminary, but scientists hope to turn it into practical use some day.

“In the future we want to develop something that practitioners would welcome,” Vadim Fedorov, PhD, an associate professor of physiology and cell biology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, told Healthline.

Fedorov explained that an implanted pacemaker works by replacing the heart’s defective natural pacemaker functions.

The sinoatrial (SA) node, or sinus node, is the heart’s natural pacemaker. It’s a small mass of specialized cells in the top of the right atrium (upper chamber of the heart). It produces the electrical impulses that cause the heart to beat.

The heart is hardwired to maintain consistency. Irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, can be due to heart disease or other problems, such as changes in diet or hormones or electrolyte imbalance.

Optical and molecular mapping of the human heart revealed that the SA node is home to multiple pacemakers, specialized…

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