June 13, 2009

Mayo Clinic Experimental Heart Treatment Gets $48 Mil Investment

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota said it has received $48 million in funding from both the federal government and private industry leaders to expand a study looking into a catheter-based treatment for atrial fibrillation, the most common heart arrhythmia in patients over the age of 65.

The experimental study, which is being called CABANA, will include 3,000 subjects across 140 health centers around the world and is aimed at determining whether the condition can be dealt with more effectively with catheter ablation than through typical drug therapies often used to treat the disease.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the heart's natural pace-maker, known as the sinus node, is overrun by numerous clusters of electricity-generating cells in the upper chamber of the heart.  The electrical activity of these rogue heart cells results in a rapid, erratic heart rhythm that can eventually lead to stroke, internal bleeding, cardiac arrest and even death.  Currently, more than 2 million Americans are affected by the disease and the number is steadily rising every year.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic hope to determine whether left atrial catheter ablation is more effective than currently-used drug therapy.  In an ablation, a long, narrow tube is inserted into the heart to physically destroy the heart tissue responsible for generating the aberrant electrical signals that cause the irregular beating.

Leaders of the study say that the research will also look to evaluate the recurrence of atrial fibrillation, stroke risk, affect on quality of life and cost-effectiveness.

The clinic says that they will first conduct a pilot trial on 60 U.S. patients at 10 different medical centers.

The full-fledged study, which will include close observation of patients for three years and follow-ups for at least two years, will receive some $18 million in funding from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health.  St Jude Medical Inc and Johnson & Johnson's Biosense Webster, say they will also be contributing $20 million and $10 million, respectively.

For St. Jude and Biosense Webster, the research project is something of a speculative investment, as both are leading manufacturers of catheters and other medical devices used in ablation procedures.


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