JAN 20, 2016 2:47 PM PST

Protein Clusters Keep Heart Muscle Cells Beating in Sync

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
Proteins responsible for the pumping force of the heart beat and muscle cell contraction appear to cluster together in intercalated discs in an extremely organized fashion. Scientists from the NYU Langone Medical Center have produced never-before-seen images of the protein cluster distribution and could potentially translate the patterns into indicators of increased risk for dangerous heart arrhythmia conditions.
 
According to their images, obtained at “nanometer resolution” with ion beam-scanning electron microscopy from the intercalated discs of mice, if the protein cluster spacing is disturbed by even a billionth of a meter, an irregular heart beat can result. Senior investigator Mario Delmar, MD, PhD, plans to study human cells next to see if this characteristic remains true in the intercalated discs of human heart cells.
 
"The closeness of the proteins is probably essential to coordinating the electrical properties of the heartbeat," said co-corresponding author of the study published in Nature Communications, Eli Rothenberg, PhD.
 
The intercalated discs contain clusters of cadherins and sodium ion channels, responsible for pumping force and heart muscle cell contraction, respectively. Mutations can alter their clustering organization to the point where proteins cannot effectively communicate with each other, and they fail to keep the heart pumping in synchrony.
 
An intercalated disc

Delmar’s ultimate goal is to create a blood test to easily test for abnormal intercalated disc clustering to help more people determine their risk for developing an arrhythmia. His current studies with mouse cells and future studies with human cells already provides insight into diagnosing heart disease risk. Delmar is especially interested in identifying where protein cluster organization parameters fall on a spectrum of heart disease risk. Depending on individual cases of cluster proximity, health professionals could assign varying degrees of risk to patients.
 
"Assessing risk for arrhythmia based on real-time, structural analysis instead of guesswork based on heredity would represent a major advance," said Delmar.
 

Source: NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 09, 2020
Cardiology
Broken Heart Syndrome Found to Increase During Pandemic
JUL 09, 2020
Broken Heart Syndrome Found to Increase During Pandemic
Reporting in JAMA Network Open, scientists have found that broken heart syndrome, called stress cardiomyopathy, has been ...
JUL 18, 2020
Cardiology
Diagnosing Arterial Stenosis with Computational Modeling
JUL 18, 2020
Diagnosing Arterial Stenosis with Computational Modeling
Our understanding of cardiovascular health has increased by leaps and bounds. One of the few issues that lag behind the ...
AUG 05, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Cannabis Might Trigger Heart Problems Says AHA
AUG 05, 2020
Cannabis Might Trigger Heart Problems Says AHA
The American Heart Association (AHA) has produced a new statement about medical marijuana and recreational cannabis. The ...
AUG 23, 2020
Cardiology
Gaining Insight Into a Mysterious Network of Fibers in the Heart
AUG 23, 2020
Gaining Insight Into a Mysterious Network of Fibers in the Heart
Leonardo da Vinci knew about a mesh, fibrous network surrounding the heart, and after hundreds of years, scientists are ...
AUG 29, 2020
Cardiology
Protecting the Heart Against Damage from Mechanical Stress
AUG 29, 2020
Protecting the Heart Against Damage from Mechanical Stress
Heart failure is a traumatic event that can have long-lasting consequences. Often, after an adverse cardiac event, the h ...
NOV 10, 2020
Cardiology
Liposomal Delivery Could Help Prevent Doxorubicin Cardiotoxicity
NOV 10, 2020
Liposomal Delivery Could Help Prevent Doxorubicin Cardiotoxicity
One of the greatest failures of modern cancer therapies is the rather substantial off-target toxic effects many radio-, ...
Loading Comments...