New laboratory spotlights genetics of sudden cardiac death

26 August 2008 | Story by Sivu Mangxamba


new cardiovascular genetics laboratory
Celebration: (From left) Prof Bongani Mayosi, Prof Hanlie Moolman Smook VC Dr Max Price, Prof Lionel Opie, and Prof Peter Schwartz, at the opening of the new cardiovascular genetics laboratory.

Two years of planning between UCT and the University of Pavia, Italy, have resulted in the establishment of a joint Cardiovascular Genetics Laboratory in the Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research.

The opening of the new facility in August was the highlight of an international Symposium on cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death.

The laboratory is jointly headed up by Professor Bongani Mayosi, head of UCT's Department of Medicine, and Prof Peter Schwartz, chair of cardiology at the University of Pavia. Their collaborators are Associate Professor Hanlie Moolman-Smook of Stellenbosch University and Dr Al George of Vanderbilt University in the US.

"One of the most exciting aspects of this project is the collaboration between the developing world, through UCT and Stellenbosch, and the developed countries, through the University of Pavia and Vanderbilt," said Mayosi.

The laboratory will investigate the genetic causes of sudden cardiac death and treatment strategies for the condition.

South Africa is seen as an ideal place to study sudden cardiac death.

Immigration to the country from the Netherlands and France in the 15th and 16th centuries, and intermarriages between these immigrant populations and the indigenous peoples, fostered the preservation and spread of disease-causing genetic mutations.

"This joint venture represents an important opportunity for the biomedical research in South Africa and I am delighted that this happening in partnership with the University of Cape Town," said Vice-Chancellor Price Dr Max Price, who cut the ribbon to open the new facility.

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