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Medical technologists investigate irregular heartbeats

Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating. The condition can be serious since it is associated with an increased risk of heart failure, dementia, and stroke. New research from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center could represent a major breakthrough. This is based on studies relating to a revived human atria, donated after a heart transplant. Keeping the biological part suitable for study has taken careful planning and the use of the latest medical techniques.

With the new method, the heart tissue is put into a dish. In close proximity to the dish are four highly-sensitive infrared cameras. The tissue is injected with a fluorescent dye, allowing the level of electrical activity to be detected as the dye enters the tissue and is circulated.

The new technique was created by Professor Vadim Fedorov. Even with the new process, the research group had only twelve hours to prepare the donated atria and to collect important data. In a message to Digital Journal, Professor Fedorov said: “We can see 40,000 recordings across the heart and we can visualize the electrical activity in 3D. We can see through the heart. We can see at many different depths. It’s a vast improvement over any current clinical imaging, where you see up to 200 recordings, and only from one side.” High quality three-dimensional images are created of the heart, allowing a detailed diagnosis to be made.

The application of the medical technology allows the researchers to monitor how electricity moves across the heart tissue. This enables the medics to pinpoint which areas are responsible. This has enabled the researchers to select regions of concern that may account for the heart condition. These are described as regions that resemble ‘the eye of a hurricane’, which are called reentrant drivers. These act to sustain the abnormal electrical activity causing atrial fibrillation, or a-fib.

Understanding this should lead to improved medical interventions designed to address the problems of atrial fibrillation.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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