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New microscope to fight heart disease

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: New microscope to fight heart disease
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Doctors at the Cardiac Research Institute with the Masonic Medical Research Laboratory in Utica are starting a new fight against heart disease with the help of some state-of-the-art technology. Our Andrew Sorensen takes us behind the scenes of their latest research and tells us how it could benefit patients.

UTICA, N.Y. -- This microscope may look like something from science fiction, but the new confocal microscope at the Masonic Medical Research Laboratory is cutting edge technology that could just save your life.

"At very discrete levels throughout a cell, for instance, which may only be 10 to 20 micrometers tall, and we can take images at every micrometer across there and then recapitulate that into 3D," MMRL Post-Doctoral Fellow Dr. Matthew Betzenhauser explained.

Dr. Betzenhauser is using the microscope to track the effects of calcium on heart tissue in real time.

"My particular research focus is understanding what about the aging process predisposes us to conditions like atrial fibrillation," he said.

Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common types of arrhythmia and kills hundreds of thousands of people every year. This new microscope allows them a deeper understanding of what exactly is going on in the heart as the disease develops.

"We can look at the movement of proteins and we can discern exactly what the dysfunction is caused by the error in the genetic code," MMRL Executive Director and Director Dr. Charles Antzelevich said.

The research laboratory also says the microscope will be useful in finding risk factors in any other number of arrhythmias.

"We take skin biopsies from normal humans and also patients with diseases, heart disease and then we convert these to stems cells," said Dr. Antzelevich.

Dr. Antzelevich says this allows them to create and study cells identical to any genetic heart issue they can find.

"And we can use them also to design specific treatments for that patient," he said.

The laboratory is already researching three other genetic arrhythmia syndromes using the microscope and they hope to conduct long term studies into medication based on those findings.

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