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New insights into deadly heart rhythm disorder
Date:12/20/2007

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Every year, 300,000 Americans die suddenly when, out of the blue, a storm of electrical activity arises within their heart muscle so violent and so abrupt that their hearts just stop beating. These tragic and dramatic sudden cardiac deaths strike people young and old, often without warning.

But despite this, scientists still dont understand just what causes a hearts electrical system to suddenly go so berserk. They have a name for the rhythm disturbance that causes most sudden cardiac deaths ventricular fibrillation, or VF but not a full understanding of what makes one person more vulnerable to it than another.

And although research on VF in animals is yielding important clues, it hasnt been clear if lessons learned from the hearts of laboratory mice can be applied to people.

Now, a new paper by a group of researchers published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sheds new light on the origins of VF and the ability of research in animals to be translated into humans. The paper, and other research by the team, may help lead to better ways to identify which people are at risk of sudden cardiac death, and to develop treatments to help them reduce their risk.

The paper, which will be in the December 26 print edition of PNAS, is by a group of researchers from the United States, Canada and Spain. Most of them are from a State University of New York Upstate Medical University group that is in the process of moving its research laboratory to the University of Michigan Medical School.

The research team is led by senior author Jos Jalife, M.D., who describes the electrical storm of VF as a hurricane or tornado that disrupts the regular rhythm of the hearts electrical activity.

The new paper shows that the turbulence that arises in these electrical waves is organized into spiral vortices, no matter what species of mammal is experiencing the VF. These vortices, als
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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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