The Connection Between Heart Fibrillation And Abrupt Changes In Action Potential Of Heart Muscle Cells Elucidated By Scientists

First Posted: May 04, 2017 06:00 AM EDT

The electric defibrillator pads are routinely used in emergency cardiac arrest cases to jump start the rhythmic beating of the heart. The advent and application of these defibrillators are based on the discovery of the role of internal electric impulses in the maintenance of a constant pulse rate and heartbeat. Medical researchers have already established that most cases of sudden cardiac deaths are caused due to fibrillation or turbulence in normal heartbeat brought about by hindered electric signaling.

It is known that electric impulse generated deep inside the heart radiates through the muscular network and stimulates their contraction. Coordinated contraction and relaxation of these muscles is responsible for maintaining a constant heartbeat. Whenever these impulses fail to radiate properly either due to blockages or sudden physiological changes, the electric impulses transform into spiral electric waves. These chaotic waves interrupt the radiation of subsequent impulses, thereby amplifying the effect.

According to, these turbulences hinder the capacity of the heart to beat properly that often leads to cardiac arrest and death. Scientists have already known that aberrations in the action potentials of the heart muscle cells are responsible for the fibrillation of the heart. However, the importance of the amplitudes of these action potentials in bringing about fibrillation is realized recently.

As per the results of a recently conducted study on animal models by the researchers of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Georgia Institute of Technology, mathematical models based on physiological parameters can help in estimating the risk and possible impact of fibrillation in susceptible patients. The research findings of the study were published a couple of weeks ago in Physical Review Letters journal.

According to Georgia Tech, the said study evaluated the sodium ion channel-dependent cellular action potential of heart cells during depolarization and resting stage. Professor Flavio Fenton from Georgia Tech's School of Physics and his team found that there occur close correlations between the variation of cellular action potentials and the onset of fibrillation.

Based on the these results, it is hypothesized that a similar mathematical model can be generated to estimate the probability of a person having a heart attack due to sudden cardiac fibrillation. The study essentially highlights the role of physical and mathematical analyses in the prediction, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of biomedical conditions.

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