Arrhythmia culprit caught in action

February 17, 2013

Using powerful X-rays, University of British Columbia researchers have reconstructed a crime scene too small for any microscope to observe – and caught the culprit of arrhythmia in action.

Characterized by the heart beating too fast, too slow or inconsistently, arrhythmias may cause a decrease of blood flow to the brain and body, resulting in heart palpitation, dizziness, fainting, or even death.

Presented today at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston, the 3D animated model reveals for the first time how gene mutations affect the crucial pathway in that controls its rhythm.

"Our heart runs on calcium," says UBC molecular biologist Filip Van Petegem. "Every is preceded by rushing into heart muscle cells."

"Then, a special protein opens the pathway for calcium to be released from compartments within these cells, and in turn initiates the contraction."

Mutations to the gene that forms this protein have been linked to arrhythmia and sudden cardiac deaths in otherwise healthy people.

"Reconstructing the pathway and its dynamic motion enabled us to see the process in action," says Van Petegem. "We found that the mutations destabilize the pathway's structure, causing calcium to be released prematurely.

"Finding a way to stabilize the pathway could prevent these deadly conditions and save lives."

Explore further: Researchers illuminate link between sodium, calcium and heartbeat

Related Stories

Discovery could improve screening for sudden cardiac death

December 12, 2012

Unfortunately, newspaper articles about young athletes dying suddenly on the field are not unheard of. Such reports fuel discussions about compulsory screening, for example of young footballers, for heart failure. Research ...

Recommended for you

Natural compound reduces signs of aging in healthy mice

October 27, 2016

Much of human health hinges on how well the body manufactures and uses energy. For reasons that remain unclear, cells' ability to produce energy declines with age, prompting scientists to suspect that the steady loss of efficiency ...

A metabolic switch to turn off obesity

October 27, 2016

You've tried all the diets. No matter: you've still regained the weight you lost, even though you ate well and you exercised regularly! This may be due to a particular enzyme in the brain: the alpha/beta hydrolase domain-6 ...

Mitochondria control stem cell fate

October 27, 2016

What happens in intestinal epithelial cells during a chronic illness? Basic research conducted at the Chair of Nutrition and Immunology at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) addressed this question by generating a new ...

Scientists develop 'world-first' 3-D mammary gland model

October 27, 2016

A team of researchers from Cardiff University and Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute has succeeded in creating a three-dimensional mammary gland model that will pave the way for a better understanding of the mechanisms ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.