Mending broken hearts

Life & Health

A husband and wife team are working together to mend broken hearts.

Rolf Bodmer and his wife, Karen Ocorr spend their days, and sometimes their nights, looking for the genetic mechanism that causes A-Fib.

Rolf Bodmer, Ph.D., Professor, Sanford Burnham Prebys said, “We sometimes bring our work home in the sense that even at the dinner table, we will discuss some issues, you know, can this be, can this not be.”

Aging, diet, high blood pressure, even previous heart surgery can lead to A-Fib. They may find the genetic cause in fruit flies.

Flies’ genes are easy to manipulate and flies age quickly, so results come in months, not years.

Karen Ocorr, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Sanford Burnham Prebys: “we’re trying to understand the genetic basis for why atrial fibrillation happens, and if we understand that genetic basis, we have a chance to identify targets we can use to develop drugs and therapies.”

Donna Marie Robinson is watching A-Fib research advance closely. Three years ago, she thought she was fit and healthy, then she collapsed. The diagnosis: A-Fib, ventricular tachycardia, heart failure and more. She’s had to curb her active lifestyle.

“I would want to be with my friends in the spinning room, and I can’t. I’d be, my defibrillator would probably shock me off the bike,” said Robinson, afib patient.

She’s hopeful a cure is close.

Doctor Ocorr believes they’ll find a genetic network for atrial fibrillation. Then, they can start testing therapeutics both on fruit flies and on human tissue.

They’re already getting A-Fib patient tissue samples from cardiologists around the world for further testing.

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