Beginner’s Resources to Cardiac BME
The following pages outline content that is important to biomedical engineering, with a special focus on heart regeneration:
Managing Cardiovascular Disease
Mortality data from the last decade shows that cardiovascular disease accounts for about 1 in every 3 deaths in the United States. In 2008, 1 in 9 death certificates in the United States mentioned heart failure. These findings, from the American Heart Association 2012 Statistical Update, paint an alarming picture: The heart is an essential piece of the human machine, and unfortunately when it is not healthy, our lives are at risk. How can we improve cardiovascular health?
There are two approaches to a solution:
- Decrease the risk factors for cardiovascular disease
- Improve treatments for those who have cardiovascular disease
Advancements in preventative medicine and health education take the first approach, helping to decrease the prevalence of cardiac disease and myocardial infarctions. Both approaches are important in making progress toward the goal of improving cardiovascular health, and there is a great need for advancements in cardiac care for diseased hearts.
Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
The CDC estimates that 735,000 people experience myocardial infarction each year in the United States. A myocardial infarction typically results in cardiomyocyte death, then an inflammatory period, followed by the formation of a scar. The scar is characterized by fibrotic tissue, which lacks cardiomyocytes. Since the fibrotic tissue does not have the same electrical and contractile properties of cardiac muscle tissue, it hinders the development of normal systolic and diastolic pressures in the heart during contraction.
A myocardial infarction also causes a remodeling process in the heart, which results in ventricular enlargement. Unfortunately, this ventricular enlargement is associated with a reduction in survival. About 50% of all patients die within 5 year of a heart failure.
In simpler terms, the scar that forms and the remodeling that occurs after a heart attack prevent the heart from operating at standard performance levels.
What causes these physiological and structural changes in the heart following heart damage?
This is one of the many questions our research group looks to answer. Identifying and learning more about the factors that cause physiological and structural changes in the heart may lead to improvements in cardiovascular health.