Section: Research Program

Complex models for the propagation of cardiac action potentials

The contraction of the heart is coordinated by a complex electrical activation process which relies on about a million ion channels, pumps, and exchangers of various kinds in the membrane of each cardiac cell. Their interaction results in a periodic change in transmembrane potential called an action potential. Action potentials in the cardiac muscle propagate rapidly from cell to cell, synchronizing the contraction of the entire muscle to achieve an efficient pump function. The spatio-temporal pattern of this propagation is related both to the function of the cellular membrane and to the structural organization of the cells into tissues. Cardiac arrythmias originate from malfunctions in this process. The field of cardiac electrophysiology studies the multiscale organization of the cardiac activation process from the subcellular scale up to the scale of the body. It relates the molecular processes in the cell membranes to the propagation process and to measurable signals in the heart and to the electrocardiogram, an electrical signal on the torso surface.

Several improvements of current models of the propagation of the action potential are developed, based on previous work [44] and on the data available at IHU LIRYC:

  • Enrichment of the current monodomain and bidomain models [44]   [8] by accounting for structural heterogeneities of the tissue at an intermediate scale. Here we focus on multiscale analysis techniques applied to the various high-resolution structural data available at the LIRYC.

  • Coupling of the tissues from the different cardiac compartments and conduction systems. Here, we develop models that couple 1D, 2D and 3D phenomena described by reaction-diffusion PDEs.

These models are essential to improve our in-depth understanding of cardiac electrical dysfunction. To this aim, we use high-performance computing techniques in order to numerically explore the complexity of these models.

We use these model codes for applied studies in two important areas of cardiac electrophysiology: atrial fibrillation [20] [46] and sudden-cardiac-death (SCD) syndromes [14], [51], [48]. This work is performed in collaboration with several physiologists and clinicians both at IHU Liryc and abroad.