Wave patterns point out damaged organs

TEXAS A&M (US) — Examining the distinct wave patterns formed by complex biochemical reactions within the human body may make identification of diseased organs more effective.

Zhengdong Cheng, associate professor of chemical engineering at Texas A&M University, has developed a model that simulates how these wave patterns are generated.

Findings, which appear in the journal Physical Review E, detail his work with a system designed to model cells in a biochemical environment, similar to what occurs inside the human body.

Two types of resin beads, one type, loaded with a catalyst are referred to as active and represent living cells. Thee beads that are not loaded with a catalyst are referred to as inactive and represent diseased or dead cells.

In contrast to previous experiments that have only focused on the effects of active beads, Cheng’s system is the first to examine the effects of inactive beads, particularly the effects of significant increases in the inactive bead population within a system.

Because the beads within the sample represent cells, the increase in inactive beads simulates a higher percentage of dead or diseased cells within an organ, such as the heart.

As the population of inactive beads increases, the resulting wave patterns transform from target-shaped to spiral-shaped.

The inference is that as tissue of an organ becomes more diseased and greater numbers of cells die, the biochemical reactions involving that organ will produce spiral wavelets instead of target wavelets.

This corresponds to observations made with electrocardiograms that reveal a change from pane-wave to spiral wavelets accompanying the procession from normal sinus rhythm to ventricular fibrillation, a cause of cardiac arrest.

Recognizing these wave patterns and what they represent, Cheng says, may lead to a better and more timely understanding of the structure of a diseased organ.

This knowledge could help determine whether an organ is becoming diseased as well as the extent of damage to an organ once it is diseased.

“For example, fibrotic nonexcitable ‘dead’ tissue normally presents as a small percentage of normal heart tissue,” Cheng says.

“As a result of aging, after a heart attack, or in the case of cardiac myopathies, the percentage of fibrotic tissue increases dramatically, up to 30 or 40 percent.

“In a scenario such as this, given our findings, we would expect to see more spiral-shaped wavelets when examining an organ that has incurred structural damage,” Cheng says.

“A further increase in spiral wavelets could potentially signal an even greater percentage of structural damage to the heart.”

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