Developing a novel comprehensive framework for the investigation of cellular and whole heart electrophysiology in the in situ human heart: historical perspectives, current progress and future prospects.

Peter Taggart, Michele Orini, Ben Hanson, Martin Hayward, Richard Clayton, Halina Dobrzynski, Joseph Yanni, Mark Boyett, Pier D Lambiase

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Understanding the mechanisms of fatal ventricular arrhythmias is of great importance. In view of the many electrophysiological differences that exist between animal species and humans, the acquisition of basic electrophysiological data in the intact human heart is essential to drive and complement experimental work in animal and in-silico models. Over the years techniques have been developed to obtain basic electrophysiological signals directly from the patients by incorporating these measurements into routine clinical procedures which access the heart such as cardiac catheterisation and cardiac surgery. Early recordings with monophasic action potentials provided valuable information including normal values for the in vivo human heart, cycle length dependent properties, the effect of ischaemia, autonomic nervous system activity, and mechano-electric interaction. Transmural recordings addressed the controversial issue of the mid myocardial "M" cell. More recently, the technique of multielectrode mapping (256 electrodes) developed in animal models has been extended to humans, enabling mapping of activation and repolarisation on the entire left and right ventricular epicardium in patients during cardiac surgery. Studies have examined the issue of whether ventricular fibrillation was driven by a "mother" rotor with inhomogeneous and fragmented conduction as in some animal models, or by multiple wavelets as in other animal studies; results showed that both mechanisms are operative in humans. The simpler spatial organisation of human VF has important implications for treatment and prevention. To link in-vivo human electrophysiological mapping with cellular biophysics, multielectrode mapping is now being combined with myocardial biopsies. This technique enables region-specific electrophysiology changes to be related to underlying cellular biology, for example: APD alternans, which is a precursor of VF and sudden death. The mechanism is incompletely understood but related to calcium cycling and APD restitution. Multielectrode sock mapping during incremental pacing enables epicardial sites to be identified which exhibit marked APD alternans and sites where APD alternans is absent. Whole heart electrophysiology is assessed by activation repolarisation mapping and analysis is performed immediately on-site in order to guide biopsies to specific myocardial sites. Samples are analysed for ion channel expression, Ca(2+)-handling proteins, gap junctions and extracellular matrix. This new comprehensive approach to bridge cellular and whole heart electrophysiology allowed to identify 20 significant changes in mRNA for ion channels Ca(2+)-handling proteins, a gap junction channel, a Na(+)-K(+) pump subunit and receptors (particularly Kir 2.1) between the positive and negative alternans sites.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalProgress in biophysics and molecular biology
    Issue number2-3
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


    • Alternans
    • In-vivo in-human multielectrode mapping
    • Monophasic action potential
    • Myocardial biopsy
    • Ventricular fibrillation
    • mRNA analysis


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