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The mathematics of a heart beat could save lives
Date:2/17/2012

What we perceive as the beating of our heart is actually the co-ordinated action of more than a billion muscle cells. Most of the time, only the muscle cells from the larger heart chambers contract and relax. But when the heart needs to work harder it relies on back-up from the atrial muscle cells deep within the smaller chambers (atria) of the heart.

The health of these 'high-performance' atrial cells relies on specific concentrations of cellular calcium. Now, for the first time, scientists at The University of Nottingham have produced a mathematical model of calcium activity within the atrial heart cell which will significantly improve our chances of treating heart disease and stroke.

This break-through, which takes scientists into a world of cell activity currently beyond the scope of imaging technology, has just been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS),

Dr Rdiger Thul, a lecturer in applied mathematics in the School of Mathematical Sciences, said: "This new model provides clinically relevant insights into the initiation and propagation of sub-cellular calcium signals. Thus, for the first time we can manipulate cellular properties throughout a whole atrial muscle cell in order to deduce which conditions give rise to abnormalities. This has the potential to point to new treatments for heart disease and irregular heart beat such as atrial fibrillation, which can lead to thrombosis and stroke."

The importance of the atrial kick

A human heart will beat more than one billion times during our lifetime. The main function of the heart is to pump blood. To generate the necessary force to propel blood through all the blood vessels, the heart beats with every contraction of its cells.

Most of these muscle cells surround the larger chambers of the heart, the ventricles. Under resting conditions, the ventricles are mainly responsible for contracting
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Contact: Lindsay Brooke
lindsay.brooke@nottingham.ac.uk
44-011-595-15751
University of Nottingham
Source:Eurekalert

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