Cardiac Electrophysiology

Cardiac Electrophysiology

Each beat of the heart is triggered by an electrical impulse that propagates through the heart muscle in a well-ordered sequence. Cardiac electrophysiology is the study of this process and the ways in which it can go wrong. Cardiac arrhythmias kill on the order of 400,000 people in North America each year.

Cardiac electrophysiology research in UAB’s Biomedical Engineering Department is centered at the Cardiac Rhythm Management Laboratory (CRML). CRML is a 20,000 square foot facility that houses researchers from Biomedical Engineering, Medicine and Physiology. Using an interdisciplinary approach, CRML researchers study cardiac electrophysiology from the molecular to the whole-organ level with the goal of preventing and improving the management of cardiac rhythm disorders.

Much electrophysiology work involves recording electrical potentials. CRML is equipped to record such potentials from single cells, cultured cell monolayers, isolated heart preparations, and in situ hearts. Cardiac mapping is the process of recording from many spatially distributed sites simultaneously. CRML has electrical mapping systems that can record signals from over 1000 extracellular electrodes. Optical mapping uses voltage-sensitive dyes to transduce electrical potentials into fluorescence. CRML is equipped to record this information with both photodiode arrays and high-speed video cameras. CRML is also equipped to record from intracellular and extracellular microelectrodes.

To help interpret large volumes of experimental data and to suggest new experiments, CRML researchers employ high-performance computing and advanced algorithms to model cardiac propagation and to analyze mapping data.

Because the CRML research team includes engineers, computer scientists, physiologists, physicians, and veterinarians, students at CRML are exposed to many different approaches to the study of cardiac electrophysiology. Additional training opportunities are available through close collaborations with clinical electrophysiologists and scientists from industry.

CRML research funding comes from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, American Heart Association, The Whitaker Foundation, and medical device manufacturers.

Cardiac Electrophysiology Faculty