Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Weak Hearted
18 February 2014

Weak Hearted

Looking for ways to pre-empt onset of cardiovascular disease – the number one killer worldwide – scientists have devised a novel way to monitor the health of heart muscle. It works by measuring how much of a chemical called creatine is present. Our bodies naturally produce creatine to help transport energy to muscles, but without oxygen its production is limited. When arteries are partially blocked, the blood may be unable to transport enough oxygen, resulting in less muscle creatine. Pictured are colour-coded maps of creatine levels (red is high, blue is low) in a region of pigs and sheep hearts. The healthy hearts (top row) show evenly spread, high levels of creatine, but parts of the damaged hearts (bottom row) show only small amounts of creatine. These areas are being starved of oxygen. Using these maps doctors will be able to detect heart disorders much earlier on, helping to prevent heart attacks.

Written by Helen Thomas

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