LONDON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Discovery of a gene that regulates heart beat could lead to new treatments for cardiac rhythm disturbances, British researchers said.
Researchers at Imperial College London say the gene SCN10A controls electric signals to the heart.
Damage or mutations to the gene increase the risk of heart disease and disturbances such as ventricular fibrillation, which can cause the heart to stop beating, The Telegraph reported Monday.
Learning more about SCN10A and its variations will help scientists understand how the body's heartbeat is controlled and why some people are more susceptible to heart problems than others, said John Chambers, the study's lead author. Chambers likened genetic variation to the two sides of a coin:
"One side is associated with increased risk, the other with decreased risk," he said. "We have identified a gene that influences heart rhythm, and people with different variants of the gene will have increased or decreased risks of developing heart rhythm problems."