Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Bleeding Edge

Understanding how the oxygen gradient at a damaged/undamaged border of heart tissue regulates heart cell function

02 January 2023

Bleeding Edge

During a heart attack, oxygen can't reach an area of heart tissue, and the cells there die. The long-term health of survivors depends on the border zone between injured low-oxygen cells and healthy high-oxygen ones. After a heart attack, this region goes through changes that can stop the heart from pumping blood around the body properly. But scientists haven't been able to study the border zone in detail – until now. Here, we see rat heart cells on a chip, aligned so that they can contract like a real beating heart. To mimic the border zone after a heart attack, scientists control oxygen levels in a gradient across the chip. This technology captures the damage seen in real life, including inflammation, weak contractions, and disrupted calcium signalling. Using this chip, researchers hope to understand how an oxygen gradient leads to heart failure and discover new treatments to prevent it.

Written by Henry Stennett

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