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18 June 2017


Our heart beats thanks to a cluster of natural pacemaker cells – the sinoatrial node – in the right atrium generating electrical signals that travel through the muscle. This causes the heart muscle fibres to contract and pump. Sometimes, this system can be disrupted when the electrical transmission is interrupted, causing electrical signals to fire one after the other, creating an inefficient heart beat, which can be fatal. The electrical waves of the heartbeat have to be coordinated for an effective heartbeat to be maintained. By analysing these waves using electrocardiograms of a rabbit heart (pictured), researchers have been able to pinpoint abnormalities that help to explain why electrical waves go off-course. This mathematical model could eventually be applied to human hearts, helping doctors to better predict patients who could be at risk of suffering from electrical disturbances in the heart.

Written by Katie Panteli

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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