Sept. 10-16, 1999
U.Va. gets $4 million cancer grant
Curry School bringing classroom technology to Bermuda
Improvements made for checking children's hearing

From the desk of. . .Tom Gausvik

Hot Links -- slave life
U.Va. Patents Foundation upgrades operations
Making hospitals safer workplaces
A solution for broken hearts
Free guide offered for sexual assault survivors
Conference on health-care ethics Sept. 16-17

Robertson Media Center open house Sept. 17

Johanna Drucker appointed to media studies chair
Newly digitized language lab makes learning a piece of kuchen

Off the Shelf

Benefit concert for Living Wage Campaign


A solution for broken hearts

Robert Berne

By Charles Feigenoff

Robert Berne, now professor emeritus of physiology, discovered in the 1960s that when muscles work hard, they produce adenosine, which causes the surrounding blood vessels to dilate and increases the flow of oxygen and needed nutrients to the muscles.

Berne later learned that adenosine plays a role in regulating the heartbeat as well. A natural pacemaker controls the rhythmic contractions of the heart by sending a sequence of electrical impulses to each of the heart's four chambers much the way a distributor in a car engine sends a sequence of sparks to the proper cylinders. Adenosine slows the heart by blocking the flow of current along the heart's special conductive tissue.

Berne saw the advantages of this effect in cases of supraventricular tachycardia, or rapid, irregular heartbeats. "It's as if [the natural pacemaker] has become stuck in the 'on' position," Berne says.

Along with his colleague Luiz Belardinelli, now with CV Therapeutics in Palo Alto, Calif., Berne came up with the idea of injecting adenosine into patients experiencing irregular heartbeats. Licensed under the name Adenocard, the treatment is widely used by doctors and emergency medical technicians in the United States and Great Britain. Developed with research funding from the National Institutes of Health, Adenocard has been the most profitable patent licensed by the U.Va. Patent Foundation. It has returned more than $26 million to the Patent Foundation, the University and its inventors over the past 15 years.

A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Berne patented another use of adenosine -- adding it to a solution used during open-heart surgery.


© Copyright 1999 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

UVa Home Page UVa Events Calendar Top News UVa Home Page