A team from Liverpool John Moores University, the University of Manchester, Aarhus University and Newcastle University have produced detailed 3D images of the human heartbeat. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool-based scientists have played a key role in a technological breakthrough that will help surgeons fix potentially fatal heart conditions without damaging precious tissue.
A team of scientists from Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), the University of Manchester, Aarhus University and Newcastle University, have developed a way of producing 3D data to show the cardiac conduction system in unprecedented detail.
These are the special cells that enable our hearts to beat.
The new data in this study gives them a much more accurate framework than previously available for computer models of the heartbeat.
It will improve the ability of cardiac specialists to make sense of troublesome heart rhythms like atrial fibrillation that affects 1.4m people in the UK.
The data reveals exactly where the cardiac conduction system is in a normal heart. For example, it shows just how close it runs to the aortic valve.
Professor Jonathan Jarvis who is based at the LJMU School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, said: “The 3D data makes it much easier to understand the complex relationships between the cardiac conduction system and the rest of the heart.
“We also use the data to make 3D printed models that are really useful in our discussions with heart doctors, other researchers and patients with heart problems.
“New strategies to repair or replace the aortic valve must therefore make sure that they do not damage or compress this precious tissue.
“In future work we will be able to see where the cardiac conduction system runs in hearts that have not formed properly.
“This will help the surgeons who repair such hearts to design operations that have the least risk of damaging the cardiac conduction system.”
Co-author Dr Halina Dobrzynski, who is based at the University of Manchester Cardiovascular Division, has been working on the anatomy of the cardiac conduction system for 20 years.
She added: “This is just the beginning. The British Heart Foundation is supporting my group to visualise this system in 3D from aged and failing hearts.
“With my research assistant Andrew Atkinson and working with Professor Jonathan Jarvis, Robert Stephenson and others, we will produce families of data from aged and failing hearts in 3D.”