The heart is a dynamic organ that continuously adapts to the needs of the body. The adaptation is normally useful and necessary, for example when physical exercise causes the heart to grow larger and pump more powerfully, to increase blood flow and oxygen supply to the body. But in some chronic heart diseases, the heart's adaptability can work against its purpose, and contribute to aggravate the function rather than improve it. For instance, the heart wall may grow thicker, which can make the heart pump more forcefully and supply more blood to the body, but at the same time makes the heart stiffer. A stiffer heart may not be properly filled for each heartbeat, and reduced filling gives less blood to eject and therefore reduced performance. The heart can try to compensate for this by growing even bigger and thicker, which worsens the problem and may lead to a vicious cycle that over time leads to heart failure. To give optimal treatment for chronic heart patients it is important to understand the physiological processes that drive the heart's adaptation, and what makes these vital mechanisms turn harmful in some situations. In the DynaComp project, we will use mathematical models and computer simulations to compute the mechanical forces in the heart muscle during a heartbeat, both for healthy hearts and in disease. In addition, we will create models for how these forces make the heart grow
and adapt over time, and how the dynamics of this process is altered during disease. The results of the project can provide a better understanding of the physiology of the heart, and lead to better diagnosis and treatment of chronic heart disease.
Researcher Project for Scientific Renewal (The Research Council of Norway)
Institute for Experimental Medical Research, The University of Oslo