How heart tissue combines mechanical strength and electrical reliability

May 11, 2018 by Chris Chipello, McGill University
The helicoidal orientation of fibres in a ventricle wall is shown in bright colours, based on diffusion magnetic resonance imaging of a rat’s heart tissue. Credit: Shape Analysis Group/McGill University

The human heart can be viewed as both a mechanical and an electrical device – one that contracts and pumps billions of times over an average lifespan. How does it manage to achieve this feat without lapsing into dangerous irregularities?

New research by McGill University scientists finds that the answer lies in the particular geometry of the of the heart wall. A collaboration led by McGill Professor Kaleem Siddiqi had shown in a 2012 study that bundles of bend and twist together in a geometrical pattern known as a "generalized helicoid" – an arrangement known to provide mechanical strength in biological materials such as insect cuticle.

In a new paper, published May 8 in the journal Scientific Reports, Siddiqi and his students from McGill's School of Computer Science and the Centre for Intelligent Machines used mathematical modeling and analysis to demonstrate that this arrangement of fibres also helps heart tissue conduct electrical signals reliably. The lead author of the article, Tristan Aumentado-Armstrong, was a McGill undergraduate at the time the research was carried out. "Cardiac tissue is unique in that mechanical resilience must coexist with active contraction and signal propagation," Siddiqi says. "Our analysis shows that nature has used helicoidal geometry to satisfy both the electrical and mechanical requirements of the heart."

Explore further: Researchers gain new insights into structure of heart muscle fibers

More information: Tristan Aumentado-Armstrong et al. Conduction in the Heart Wall: Helicoidal Fibers Minimize Diffusion Bias, Scientific Reports (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-25334-7

Related Stories

Researchers gain new insights into structure of heart muscle fibers

May 28, 2012
A study led by researchers from McGill University provides new insights into the structure of muscle tissue in the heart – a finding that promises to contribute to the study of heart diseases and to the engineering of ...

New study finds knocking out p63 gene as means of converting scar tissue into muscle tissue in the heart

April 17, 2018
Following a heart attack, the parts of the heart muscle that die do not regenerate into new heart tissue and instead are replaced by scar tissue. Using rodent models, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine are looking ...

Heartbeat out of sync

May 8, 2018
Life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias often occur after a heart attack, as the scar tissue can interfere with the spread of electrical impulses that activate the heart. An international research team under the leadership of ...

Heart breakthrough using 3-D computer model

November 27, 2015
Scientists have used a computerised 3D model of the heart to work out the cause of heart silence, a condition that causes the upper chambers of the heart to lose their power to contract.

FDA approves mechanical heart valve for newborns

March 7, 2018
(HealthDay)—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the world's smallest mechanical heart valve, designed to be used in newborns and other young infants with heart defects.

Recommended for you

To have or not to have... your left atrial appendage closed

May 22, 2018
Each year in the U.S., more than 300,000 people have heart surgery. To reduce risk of stroke for their patients, surgeons often will close the left atrial appendage, which is a small sac in the left side of the heart where ...

Natural antioxidant bilirubin may improve cardiovascular health

May 18, 2018
Bilirubin, a yellow-orange pigment, is formed after the breakdown of red blood cells and is eliminated by the liver. It's not only a sign of a bruise, it may provide cardiovascular benefits, according to a large-scale epidemiology ...

New algorithm more accurately predicts life expectancy after heart failure

May 17, 2018
A new algorithm developed by UCLA researchers more accurately predicts which people will survive heart failure, and for how long, whether or not they receive a heart transplant. The algorithm would allow doctors to make more ...

New genes found that determine how the heart responds to exercise

May 17, 2018
A new study by researchers at Queen Mary University of London and University College London (UCL) has discovered 30 new gene locations that determine how the heart responds to and recovers from exercise.

Novel therapy inhibits complement to preserve neurons and reduce inflammation after stroke

May 16, 2018
A team of investigators at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) has developed a novel therapy for ischemic (clot-caused) stroke and has shown in a preclinical model that it locally inhibits complement at and around ...

Greater burden of atrial fibrillation linked to higher stroke risk

May 16, 2018
Among people with intermittently recurring atrial fibrillation who are not taking anti-blood-clotting medications, those whose hearts were in abnormal rhythms longer were three times more likely to have strokes or other types ...

0 comments

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.