Breakthrough: SA researchers discover gene linked to cardiac arrest

Experts are celebrating the discovery's scientific and clinical impact.

Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

CAPE TOWN - South African researchers have helped identify a new gene that predisposes young people to cardiac arrest.

University of Cape Town (UCT) academics and the South African Medical Research Council collaborated with experts from Italy in the discovery of the CDH2 gene. The gene is the major cause of cardiac-related deaths.

Researchers say sudden cardiac arrest claims the lives of more than five young South Africans daily.

The CDH2 gene causes a heart condition referred to as arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy.

Professor Bongani Mayosi, the Health Sciences Faculty dean at UCT, says identifying the gene allows doctors to apply preventative techniques.

“We can implant devices inside your heart to shock you when you have abnormal heart rhythm and prevent you from dying.”

Technology made available by the Italian Auxologico Institute of Milan enabled the discovery of the gene through a technique called "whole exome sequencing".

The gene was found in members of a KwaZulu-Natal family affected by heart disease.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)