Genomics dissection of the heart pacemaker in Zebrafish

Heart arrhythmia is a condition where the rhythm of heart contraction becomes irregular. This can lead to the formation of blood clots with devastating consequences such as heart attack and stroke. However, despite its seriousness, heart arrhythmia is very little understood compared to other types of heart diseases. The genetic factors which cause the condition is not well known and there is very little medical treatment available to treat such conditions, the most common being surgery and artificial pacemakers. Therefore, heart arrhythmia patients often have to live with the condition and experience a decrease in quality of life and often need to undergo continuous and costly medical procedures due to common recurrence of the condition. Our research aims to improve the understanding of the genetic mechanism causing heart arrhythmia, and with this knowledge, we hope to contribute to the medical field in improving the diagnosis as well as treatment methods of heart arrhythmia.

The pacemaker is a group of cells in the heart which spontaneously generate small electrical current at a regular rhythm and propagate this current throughout the heart, causing its rhythmic contraction. If the pacemakers develops abnormally, the rhythm of heart contraction is affected, leading to different types of arrhythmia depending on which pacemaker is affected and the nature of the defect. To study how the pacemaker develops and functions, we use the zebrafish as a model organism due to its similarity in heart physiology and genetics to that of humans. Using a genomics approach, we will perform a study to elucidate the molecular mechanism underlying pacemaker development in the zebrafish, followed by initiating the groundworks for establishing the zebrafish as a model organism to study pacemakers function and diseases associated with their dysfunction. Besides identifying factors in common between human and zebrafish, our results will also suggest novel genetic factors with potential implications in heart arrhythmia. This knowledge is envisaged to contribute to future development of molecular diagnosis as well as inform the design of future clinical therapies for heart arrhythmia.


The project is carried-out within the First-TEAM programme of the Foundation for Polish Science and is co-financed from the European Union under the European Regional Development Fund.