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Ion channels and cardiac function

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Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in developed countries. Normal cardiac function depends on electrical activity and its transduction into contraction.

We investigate the mechanisms of normal and pathological rhythm generation, to inform the development of novel treatments for cardiac arrhythmias. Our research involves studying specialized proteins (ion channels) whose activity underlies cardiac electrophysiology and the recording of electrical activity in multicellular cardiac tissues and intact hearts. We study specific mechanisms underlying cardiac pacemaking, drug-induced and inherited arrhythmias and atrial tachyarrhythmias associated with heart disease.

We are also investigating how the rise in intracellular Ca2+ that causes contraction is initiated, regulated and terminated.  Our interests include the microscopic control of Ca2+ release by clusters of ion channels/transporters and the role of subcellular structures (t-tubules) in the control of EC coupling in health and disease. How these processes are altered in the failing heart represents a special focus. This work demands precision imaging of cardiac cell function to reveal the organization and microscopic function of proteins. By increasing our understanding of EC coupling and its regulation, we seek to develop new ways of improving function in the failing heart.

This area contributes to the wider Cardiovascular Science research theme within the School of Physiology and Pharmacology.