New Research Suggests Heart Cells Respond to Neurotransmitters

Modern science has come to understand a lot about the way the human heart works, but there is still much more to be discovered. Now, thanks to new research conducted at Western University experts are one step closer to understanding exactly how heart activity is regulated by the body.

EKG monitor

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Essentially, the heart’s activity is controlled by the two sides of the nervous system: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for increasing heart rate in response to a stimulus, while the parasympathetic nervous system slows the heart rate to a normal pusle. When these two systems do not work properly, it can lead to heart failure. However, scientists have long been puzzled about how these two sides of the nervous system are able to affect the heart when the heart itself has relatively few nerve endings.

What researchers discovered is that it is not the nerve endings that pick up signals from the nervous systems, but the individual heart cells themselves. The new research suggests that heart cells pick up signals from the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh).

The researchers were then able to engineer mice whose heart cells were unable to release ACh. These mice had normal resting heart rates, but after exercise, their heart rate increased much more than it does in normal mice and took significantly longer to return to normal. This strongly suggests that ACh plays a vital role in the regulation of the human heartbeat, and possibly in other organs as well.

While further research needs to be done in order to fully understand the implications of these findings, this is a promising step towards understanding and possibly finding new treatments for heart disease or heart failure.

If you have been diagnosed with heart disease, or your doctor has recommended heart surgery, contact Cardiovascular Surgery of Southern Nevada at (702) 737-3808 to speak to a certified heart surgeon today.

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