Tissue Engineering of the Human Atrium - Approaching Mechanisms of Genesis and Control of Atrial Fibrillation

  • Phillip Law

Student thesis: Phd


Cardiovascular disease is prevalent across the western world and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality, accounting for approximately a third of all fatalities. Investigating the heart by simulating its electrophysiology via the aid of mathematical models has advanced significantly over the past 60 years and is now a well established field. While much of the research focus is placed on the ventricles, the study of the atria is in comparison neglected. Therefore this Thesis is focused on the genesis and maintenance of atrial fibrillation (AF). A series of case studies are performed whereby established biophysically detailed mathematical models are implemented and modified to incorporate electrophysical alterations of atrial cells resulting from a variety of external conditions. The opening section of this Thesis is dedicated to developing a background to the field, including a discussion into the clinical aspect of the diagnosis and management of AF. The suitability of two atrial cell models is discussed and the development of single cell, 1D, 2D, and 3D multi-scale simulation protocols are described in detail. In addition measurements taken to quantify the arrhythmogenic properties of the cells susceptibility to AF are outlined. The second section is focused on the incorporation of conditions thought to enhance atrial tissues ability to initiate and maintain the genesis of AF. Included is a case study into the missence S140G gene mutation, and elevated physiological levels of the hormone Homocystein. The third section investigates the effectiveness of well established and widely used pharmacological treatments such as Beta-Blockers. In addition possible avenues of investigations for the development of atrial specific drugs are explored. These include blocking of the ultra rapid potassium channel and a more novel target for therapy via the targeting of 5HT4 receptors; which is transcribed solely in the atria and alters the electrophysical properties of the L-type Calcium current. The final part of this Thesis is dedicated to the development of a 2D atrial sheet model which includes electrical and spatial heterogeneities via the inclusion of multiple cell types and basic fiber orientation respectively. This allows for an investigation into the role that heterogeneities play in role genesis and maintenance of AF. The main finding of this Thesis is that alterations to the electrophysiology of atrial cells, due to external factors, can be successfully simulated via the implementation of mathematically detailed atrial cell models. It is concluded that simulations of the KENQ1 mutation and elevated levels of Homocystein successfully reproduce conditions which increase the onset of AF. Established treatments such as Beta-Blockers are found to have limited effectiveness. Possible theoretical treatments, such as the blocking of IKur, are found to provide a small amount of therapeutic benefit. In contrast, investigations into the effects of Serotonin were inconclusive. The study into the 2D atria indicated the importance that heterogeneities play in atria. The conclusions show that models provide a powerful tool when investigating how changes to electrophysiology of cells are manifested at a multi-scale level. The models also have their limitations and require further advancement to improve their accuracy.
Date of Award1 Aug 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorHenggui Zhang (Supervisor)


  • Cardiac Modeling
  • Atrial Fibrillation

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