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Researchers gain detailed insight into failing heart cells using new nano technique
Date:2/25/2010

Researchers have been able to see how heart failure affects the surface of an individual heart muscle cell in minute detail, using a new nanoscale scanning technique developed at Imperial College London. The findings may lead to better design of beta-blockers, the drugs that can slow the development of heart failure, and to improvements in current therapeutic approaches to treating heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms.

Heart failure is a progressive and serious condition in which the heart is unable to supply adequate blood flow to meet the body's needs. Hormones such as adrenaline, which are activated by the body in an attempt to stimulate the weak heart, eventually produce further damage and deterioration. Symptoms include shortness of breath, difficulty in exercising and swollen feet.

In the new study, published today in the journal Science and funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Leducq Foundation, researchers were able to analyse individual regions on the surface of the heart muscle cell in unprecedented detail, using live nanoscale microscopy.

They used a new technique called scanning ion conductance microscopy (SICM), which gives an image of the surface of the cardiac muscle cell at more detailed levels than those possible using conventional live microscopy. This enabled the researchers to see fine structures such as minute tubes (t-tubules), which carry electrical signals deep into the core of the cell. They could also see that the muscle cell surface is badly disrupted in heart failure.

There are two types of receptors for adrenaline. The first, beta1AR, strongly stimulates the heart to contract and it can also induce cell damage in the long term. The second, beta2AR, can slightly stimulate contraction but it also has special protective properties. For today's study, the researchers combined SICM with new chemical probes which give fluorescent signals when beta1AR or beta2AR is activated.

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Contact: Laura Gallagher
l.gallagher@imperial.ac.uk
44-020-759-48432
Imperial College London
Source:Eurekalert

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