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Heart condition: Arrhythmia culprit caught in action

Date:
February 17, 2013
Source:
University of British Columbia
Summary:
Using powerful X-rays, researchers have reconstructed a crime scene too small for any microscope to observe -- and caught the culprit of arrhythmia in action.

Powerful X-rays reveal the tiny "crime scene" of one of arrhythmia's culprits.
Credit: Van Petegem Lab, UBC

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 February 18 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 heart muscle cells that controls its rhythm.

"Our heart runs on calcium," says UBC molecular biologist Filip Van Petegem. "Every heart beat is preceded by calcium ions 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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of British Columbia. "Heart condition: Arrhythmia culprit caught in action." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130217134214.htm>.
University of British Columbia. (2013, February 17). Heart condition: Arrhythmia culprit caught in action. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130217134214.htm
University of British Columbia. "Heart condition: Arrhythmia culprit caught in action." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130217134214.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

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