Your heart beats thousands of times a day, pumping blood round the body to provide oxygen and nutrients wherever they’re needed. Every single heartbeat happens as a result of a co-ordinated wave of biological electricity running through the nerves and muscles of the heart. If it’s disrupted, the results can be catastrophic. One way things can go wrong is known as ventricular fibrillation, where the signals activating the big muscles at the bottom of the heart – the ventricles – become chaotic, making it wriggle and squirm, rather than pumping in the proper way. To find out more about what happens during ventricular fibrillation, and whether it’s possible to predict and prevent it, researchers have developed this ‘virtual heart’ – a mathematical model based on measurements from rabbit hearts. It’s even possible to dose the virtual heart with virtual drugs, to find new ways to treat or prevent heart failure in the future.
Written by Kat Arney
- Image from work by Aditya V. S. Ponnaluri and Luigi E. Perotti, and colleagues
- Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, University of California Los Angeles, CA, USA
- Image originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)
- Published in PLOS Computational Biology, June 2016