Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Out of Time
19 January 2015

Out of Time

Just ask a drummer. Keeping four separate components perfectly in time is not easy. Yet this is what the heart does to coordinate its four chambers as they pump blood. An internal pacemaker, which uses electrical waves to tell muscle cells when to contract, makes this possible. However, restricted blood flow to the heart, known as ischaemia, can disrupt these electrical signals in three distinct ways. Computer modelling can shed light on exactly how. On the top row is a snapshot of electrical impulses racing around a healthy heart. And the others show how each component of ischaemia impacts this pattern. The physiological process represented in the second row actually decreased disruption to the heart's rhythm section while the bottom row made things worse. With over seven million people dying annually from ischaemia-linked heart problems, it's good to know that scientists have their fingers on the pulse.

Written by Jan Piotrowski

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