CMACS Researchers Co-Author Nature Paper on Low-Energy Control of Electrical Turbulence in the Heart

July 25, 2011

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming almost as many lives annually as cancer and stroke combined. One particularly problematic type of heart disease is cardiac arrhythmia, which arises as a disruption of the heart's normal rhythmic beating. The most serious types of arrhythmias are driven by spiral waves of electrical activity that circulate rapidly through the heart, resulting in ineffective pumping of blood.

Once the heart enters an arrhythmic state, a large electrical shock is the most effective way to terminate the arrhythmia and restore the heart's normal rhythm.  But defibrillation shocks are painful and can damage heart tissue. Researchers Flavio Fenton, Elizabeth M. Cherry and Robert F. Gilmour in the Computational Modeling and Analysis of Complex Systems (CMACS) project, which is supported by a National Science Foundation Expeditions in Computing award, have helped to develop a new approach to eradicating dangerous arrhythmias. Instead of one large jolt of electricity to the heart, the new approach, called low-energy anti-fibrillatory pacing (LEAP), uses a series of smaller electrical pulses. An article describing this breakthrough appears in the July 14, 2011 issue of Nature. See: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v475/n7355/full/nature10216.html

The goal of LEAP is not to eliminate the arrhythmia at once, but rather to synchronize the electrical state of the heart gradually. In this way, undesirable side effects can be avoided while still restoring the heart to its normal condition. Computational modeling, initially using simple models and then more complex models, validated this novel approach and provided motivation and guidance for a series of preclinical experimental trials that demonstrated LEAP's effectiveness. Further optimization of the method using computational modeling is expected to lead to human clinical trials.

Please see the following links for more information: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110713/full/news.2011.414.html?s=news_rss http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/07/a-less-shocking-way-to-reset-a-b.html?ref=hp http://spectrum.ieee.org/biomedical/devices/a-gentler-defibrillator-jolt


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nsfSupported by an Expeditions in Computing award from the National Science Foundation