University of Cambridge > > Foster Talks > G L Brown prize lecture: "And the beat goes on. The cardiac conduction system: the wiring of the heart"

G L Brown prize lecture: "And the beat goes on. The cardiac conduction system: the wiring of the heart"

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Jim Blundell.

100 to 200 years ago, the cardiac conduction system was discovered by Sir Arthur Keith, Sunao Tawara, Wilhelm His and Jan Purkinje. The system, comprising the sinoatrial node, the atrioventricular node and the His-Purkinje system, coordinates the heart beat: it sets and adjusts the heart rate and it makes sure that all of the different parts of the heart contract at the right time during the cardiac cycle in order for the heart to act as an efficient pump. To achieve this, the system has a complicated anatomy (equivalent to the wiring layout of your house) and a tailor-made system of electrical (i.e. action potential) signalling determined by a unique pattern of expression of ~100 ion channel and connexin subunits.

Using diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging, histology, immunolabelling of marker proteins and image processing, we are building detailed 3D anatomical models of the system. We are using quantitative PCR , in situ hybridisation, Western blot and immunohistochemistry to map out the heterogeneous distribution of ion channels and connexins. Based on the ion channel expression as well as voltage clamp data, we are building a family of biophysically-detailed action potential models for the different parts of the system.

Finally, we combine the anatomical and action potential models to simulate the normal and abnormal functioning of the system. In the talk, I will describe this work as well as why the cardiac conduction system changes during postnatal development and athletic training, why it malfunctions as we get older and during heart failure and atrial fibrillation, and why the heart rate of the mouse is 10? faster than that of the human.

This talk is part of the Foster Talks series.

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