Researchers at the University of Cape Town (UCT) have identified, through global collaboration, a new gene which is a major cause of sudden death among young people and athletes.
The CDH2 gene causes a genetic disorder which makes young people susceptible to cardiac arrest.
The discovery is said to be the biggest breakthrough in South African cardiology since Dr Chris Barnard’s first heart transplant in 1967.
“The discovery of a gene is almost like looking for a needle in a haystack. Where you’ve got three billion changes in our genome, that’s what we have, and there’s this one spelling error that you are looking for in three billion letters, so it requires major detective work and that requires skill and technology from all over the world,” explains the UCT Health Facility Dean, Professor Bongani Mayosi.
According to the research, cardiac deaths claim more than five lives every day in South Africa.
In Italy, about 50,000 sudden deaths occur every year.
“It is important to note that the disease speeds up with intense physical exercise and that is why athletes are prone to die suddenly because of the disease,” says Professor of Cardiology-Italy Peter Schwartz.
“So we learnt that it’s important if someone has the disease, intensive sports should be avoided. Athletes should be screened carefully. The disease can be treated, so that’s why it’s important to make the diagnosis early.”
The discovery of CDH2 will allow the diagnosis and possible treatment of heart muscle disease in future.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK