Possible new cause of cardiac arrest discovered

April 20th, 2010 - 3:28 pm ICT by ANI  

London, April 20 (ANI): A new disorder associated with heart problems that stems from a genetic defect in the protein glycogenin has been discovered by scientists.

In a worst case scenario, disruption of this protein’s function can lead to cardiac arrest, which is precisely what happened with the young man whose case triggered the investigation at Sahlgrenska University Hospital at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, that led to a brand new diagnosis.

The new study mentions how a young man suffered a cardiac arrest but survived thanks to the work of the ambulance paramedics. A study at Sahlgrenska University Hospital led to the discovery of not only a new disorder but also how a defect in the protein glycogenin can lead to an energy crisis in the muscle cells.

This protein’s job is to initiate the build-up of glycogen that constitutes the muscle cells’ carbohydrate reserves. The glycogenin starts the actual process by building up a short chain of around ten sugar molecules, which can then be turned into glycogen with the help of other enzymes. During strong muscular work the sugar molecules in the glycogen are used to create energy.

“The disorder is characterised by an inability to form the initial chain of sugar molecules. This leads to a shortage of glycogen and an energy crisis in the muscle cells that can result in cardiac arrest,” says Anders Oldfors, who headed up the research team and is a professor at the Sahlgrenska Academy and consultant at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.

The study also reveals how muscle cells that have a severe congenital defect can adjust and find other ways of sourcing energy, though it may not be sufficient in all situations.

“We’re hoping that our continued research in the field will provide answers to how the change in the glycogenin causes an inability to start accumulating carbohydrates in the muscle cells,” Oldfors says.

Clinically, the discovery means that this disorder must be considered as a diagnosis when investigating heart problems.

The study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. (ANI)

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