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
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.