Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Fantastic Elastic
11 February 2012

Fantastic Elastic

A heartbeat is a powerful thing. The pumping energy of countless cardiocytes [heart cells] contracting in concert creates a pressure wave that sends blood around the body. Some heart diseases can cause cardiocytes to lose their ability to contract properly. Such changes can be measured by inspecting their shape when resting or contracting. Scientists are building computer models to interpret these shapes using ideas from physics and engineering – in particular, a phenomenon called non-linear elasticity. This applies to large deformations of shape such as occurs in contracting cardiocytes. Pictured here are computer models of heart cells under stress (greater stress in the lower image). The model captures the average resting (red) and maximum stretch (bright rings) conditions. Comparing these allows scientists to understand how heart disease affects our circulation.

Written by Stefan Janusz

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