Charles Antzelevitch, PhD, a professor at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR), part of Main Line Health, was awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study novel treatment approaches for the management of serious irregularities in heart rhythm.
Dr. Antzelevitch, who also serves as director of research for Lankenau Heart Institute, is a world-renowned expert on J Wave Syndromes, which are associated with life-threatening arrhythmias. Two J Wave Syndromes in particular, Brugada syndrome (BrS) and early repolarization syndrome (ERS), are inherited heart diseases that contribute to sudden cardiac death of young adults, and in some cases have been shown to be responsible for sudden infant death. He and his team will study novel pharmacological management of these syndromes.
In particular, they will study the effects of the natural flavone acacetin and structurally similar molecules to prevent the life-threatening arrhythmias associated with these syndromes.
“We have been working to discover safe and effective treatments for the J wave syndromes for over 20 years” said Dr. Antzelevitch. “Successful management of these syndromes—for which current treatment alternatives are limited—will close a very significant gap in our therapeutic arsenal for patients at risk for sudden cardiac death.”
BrS prevalence is higher in Asian countries and among Japanese-Americans than among those in western countries. The National Organization for Rare Diseases notes that approximately five in 10,000 people have the disorder, and recent reports suggest that BrS may be responsible for up to 20 percent of sudden death in patients with hearts that are structurally normal.
ERS, on the other hand, appears to be more common. An early repolarization pattern (ERP) in the ECG is observed in up to 13 percent of the general population, according to a report published by the American College of Cardiology. It is as yet unclear how many of these are at risk for life-threatening arrhythmic events, noted Dr. Antzelevitch. While no significant regional differences in the prevalence of ERP have been reported, it is significantly more common in blacks than in Caucasians.
“Our challenge moving forward is to identify those individuals who truly are at risk and to design safe and effective treatments,” he said. “We believe our study is a critical step in the ultimate achievement of those goals.”
Dr. Antzelevitch is an expert on cardiac electrophysiology and arrhythmia syndromes. He and fellow LIMR researcher Gan-Xin Yan, MD, PhD, convened a consensus conference in 2015 to update the scientific and clinical communities on the mechanisms, diagnosis, prognosis, risk stratification, and treatment of BrS and ERS. And in 2016, the report of the J-Wave Expert Consensus Conference was published simultaneously in three biomedical journals, a highly unusual occurrence that speaks to the importance of their work. Additionally, Drs. Antzelevitch and Yan served as editors for “J Wave Syndromes: Brugada and Early Repolarization Syndromes,” a medical textbook containing further material to help clinicians identify and manage patients with these conditions.
Through the years, Dr. Antzelevitch’s research has been funded by public agencies such as NIH, the State of New York Department of Health, and the State of New York Stem Cell Center; organizations such as the American Heart Association and Heart Rhythm Society; private foundations; and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. For more on his research, visit bit.ly/2oYCnuD.