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Heart attacks: The tipping point
Date:4/27/2009

Twenty percent of American deaths each year are caused by heart attack or angina, sometimes without any warning.

But thanks to new research from Dr. Sharon Zlochiver of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tel Aviv University, there's new hope for potential heart attack victims. By looking at the electrical activity coupling two types of heart muscle cells, Dr. Zlochiver has discovered a new way of identifying an impending attack.

Dr. Zlochiver can not only predict when a heart attack will occur, but he can also help doctors ― and patients ― buy time before a deadly attack takes place. His research was published last year in the Biophysical Journal.

Keeping His Eye on the Balance

"Seventy percent of the heart is made up of myocytes, which are contractile muscle cells. The remaining 30% is mostly rigid structural cells called fibroblasts that work to hold the muscle in place," Dr. Zlochiver explains. "As the heart ages and contends with factors such as high blood pressure or genetic disease, this balance begins to change."

Through the course of his research, which was started at the University of Michigan, Dr. Zlochiver developed a mathematic model that shows when the proportion of structural fibroblast cells are at dangerous levels, at approximately 70% of the heart's volume. According to Dr. Zlochiver, this is the "tipping point" where a heart attack is imminent.

The problem has been that these cells are not apparently differentiated from one another, which presented a challenge to Dr. Zlochiver. Though a regular EKG could not give the information he sought, Dr. Zlochiver was determined to see how the cell ratio within the heart could be measured by electrical activity. Studying the electric coupling tiny electric signals between myocytes and fibroblast cells, he was able to paint a more accurate picture of a heart's health than could be deduced from even an MRI or CT s
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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