Medtronic finds gene that predicts sudden cardiac death, IDs need for implantable defibrillator

Medtronic's Evera implantable defibrillator and Viva XT cardiac resynchronization therapy-defibrillator --Courtesy of Medtronic

Medtronic ($MDT) announced at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in London that a study conducted by the Cedars Sinai Heart Institute has identified a genetic variation associated with sudden cardiac death, which can be prevented using implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs).

The study was a follow-up to Medtronic research conducted between 2007 and 2012, which first identified two deleterious genetic variants in patients using an ICD. The new findings from the follow-up Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study (SUDS) confirms the presence of at least one variant of the GNAS gene in the general population.

Using blood samples from 1,335 patients, the Oregon SUDS trial found that the variant is associated with a 50% increase in the risk of sudden cardiac death. Led by Dr. Sumeet Chugh of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, the team has been collected blood samples and genetic information from sudden cardiac arrest patients for more than 12 years.

"This is the first time a gene has been identified using ICD monitoring and then confirmed to be associated with sudden cardiac death in the general population," said Henie Wieneke, principal investigator of Medtronic's initial trial and chief physician in the department of cardiology at St. Marien-Hospital in Mülheim, Germany. "These findings are a first step to learning more about how to determine better ways to prevent and treat this condition," the statement continued.

Sudden cardiac arrest results in death in 90% of cases, and is responsible for more than 300,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. Most patients who suffer from the condition are not identified as being at risk ahead of time.

Perhaps someday holders of the genetic variant will be identified and given ICDs or other preventative measures prior to a sudden cardiac arrest. Doctors currently identify high-risk individuals by taking measurements of the heart's left ventricle, according to the Oregon SUDS website, but a molecular diagnostics-based approach would add much needed precision to the task.

"The results presented today are part of Medtronic's efforts to better identify people at risk of SCD and to get them the right life-saving therapy," said Dr. Marshall Stanton, a vice president in Medtronic's cardiac rhythm and heart failure unit, in a statement. "Medtronic looks forward to partnering with the larger clinical research community to further our shared understanding of the risk for sudden cardiac death and how to prevent it."

- read the release