The Cardiac Cell Physiology laboratory investigates how the intracellular concentration of calcium changes within heart muscle during heart disease.
Calcium is arguably the most important signaling ion throughout the body. With each heartbeat, calcium in the cardiac muscle cell cycles dramatically, changing from very low levels during diastole (the heart's relaxation time) to high levels during systole (the heart's contraction time).
In the normal heart these calcium signals exhibit precise timing, which orchestrates the coordinated contraction of all muscle cells and ensures proper pumping of blood. Interestingly, not only is calcium critical to the beating of the heart, but also an important signal for the growth and death of cardiac muscle.
The laboratory uses a multi-faceted approach to decode when and where calcium changes within the muscle cell, and examines how calcium signaling changes in various forms of heart disease including cardiomyopathy, hypertrophy, and heart failure. During heart disease muscle cells are unable to properly regulate calcium which predisposes the heart to contractile dysfunction, arrhythmia, and sudden cardiac death.
The video above was created using localized laser scanning within a single cardiac cell, and the tiger appears when calcium increases within the cell.