Detecting the source of errant electric signals in the heart that cause cardiac arrhythmias, as well as understanding what causes them, has been a notoriously difficult challenge for both physicians and researchers. This is because the heart is difficult to study, but researchers at Ohio State University have come up with a new technique that keeps myocardial tissue beating and alive in vitro long enough to study using video cameras.
The cardiac tissue comes from patients who undergo heart transplants. The atria are removed and placed within a special laboratory setup that keeps them alive for up to twelve hours. A dye is injected that reacts to and helps to trace the electrical signals moving through the tissue. Four high speed cameras surround the heart and film the scene continuously, allowing for high temporal and physical resolution of the hearts.