High blood pressure is sometimes treated by calcium channel blockers to reduce the heart beat, as the channels – which allow calcium into the cells – are linked to muscle contraction. But the channels are also fundamental to the electrical currents which create the heartbeat.
University of Leeds scientists Dr Matthew Lancaster and Dr Sandra Jones have discovered that the channels gradually fail as we age and this failure is a likely factor in arrythmia and heart attacks in the elderly. By blocking the channels to treat high blood pressure, clinicians may unwittingly be increasing the likelihood of other problems developing.
Dr Lancaster said: “Many people suffer from an irregular heartbeat as they grow older and large numbers have pacemakers fitted. Making the link between these heart problems and the failure of the calcium channels as we age has flagged up a warning sign that some common medical treatments may be making the condition worse. Clinicians should think carefully before prescribing calcium channel blockers and ensure that, in treating one heart condition, they aren’t exacerbating others.”
The beating of the heart is caused by an electrical signal, which starts at the top of the heart in the sinoatrial (SA) node and is transmitted down to cause consecutive muscle contraction of the different chambers. The electrical signal is generated through an influx of calcium into the cells in the SA node, causing a change in voltage which creates the current.
Calcium enters the cells through channels – so these are fundamental to a steady heart beat. If the calcium channels are reduced, the heartbeat becomes irregular leading to a fall in blood pressure, fainting, and potentially, if untreated, death. These are the symptoms which can mean a patient needs a cardiac pacemaker fitted – but they may be exacerbated by treatment for high blood pressure which blocks the calcium channels.
The link between age and loss of calcium channels opens up new possibilities of treating heart conditions. Dr Jones said: “It may be possible to mitigate the effects of the loss of calcium channels through gene therapy, as the treatment would only be required in one specific area – the sinoatrial node – so should be fairly easy to administer.”
The researchers also think exercise may also be a factor. As members of the sports science group in Leeds’ Faculty of Biological Sciences, Drs Lancaster and Jones are now looking at whether exercise training is able to reduce the loss of the calcium channels in the SA node.
The research is published this week in the journal of the American Heart Association, Circulation.
Abigail Chard | alfa
Newly designed molecule binds nitrogen
23.02.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Atomic Design by Water
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH
A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...
A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy