Stretching across the heart, cells in the cardiac conduction system (CCS) send out electrical impulses that control our steady heartbeats. But these natural pacemakers can go awry, leading to irregular beats called arrhythmias. The CCS can be damaged by disease, but it can also be disturbed during heart surgery as it’s difficult to spot deep in the muscly tissue. To get a better look, scientists fired x-rays at a post-mortem human heart, using a technique called micro computerised tomography to map out the CCS (left). Superimposing this scan onto the heart’s main chambers (the two atria top, and ventricles bottom) creates detailed 3D models (middle and right). These can now be used to plan and guide surgery, teach medical students, and also to compare healthy anatomy with hearts damaged by disease or age.
September is Vascular Disease Awareness Month
Written by John Ankers
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