About this Research Topic
Arrhythmias correspond to deviations from the natural rhythm of a physiological organ. They are observed in several systems of biological interest, such as the gastro-intestinal complex, the respiratory system and the uterine myometrium. Most prominently, they are known to affect the normal pumping rate in the heart, resulting in cardiac disease, one of the leading causes of death in both the industrialized and developing world. For these reasons, arrhythmias are the subject of intense research.
From a practical point of view, the work devoted to arrhythmias can be divided into three main branches:
a) investigating the mechanisms underlying the onset of arrhythmia,
b) risk-stratification (identifying high risk patients) and predicting occurrence of arrhythmia from clinically measured signals (such as the electrocardiogram) and
c) prevention and/or effective treatment of arrhythmias. In the heart, these include electrical and chemical therapies as well as invasive ablation procedures.
Advances in the knowledge of cellular properties have been one of the key elements leading to the development of biophysically very realistic and detailed models. These integrated multiscale models make it possible to describe and understand the complex interrelations and feedbacks from the level of the ion-channel all the way up to organ scale. The development of these models is motivated by significant clinical payoffs in terms of development of personalised diagnostic tools, test-beds for new anti-arrhythmic drugs and novel “electroceutical” therapies. An important component of the simulation studies vis-a-vis such detailed models is the use of high-performance computation techniques and sophisticated numerical tools for significant speedup without compromising on numerical accuracy. Dedicated simulation platforms and packages have simplified and expanded access to a wide range of biophysical models based on wide and integrated experimental data.
The investigation of much simpler models, based on a reduced, simple (“generic”) tissue description, continue to provide essential information on possible dynamical regimes in an organ. A canonical class of such models, inspired by the FitzHugh-Nagumo set of coupled differential equations, captures the essential features underlying the complex dynamics using only 2 or 3 state variables. These simple models can help elucidate the physical mechanisms that promote cardiac arrhythmias such as spiral breakup, negative filament tension etc. Furthermore, these models are sufficiently generic to be applicable to model a range of physiological systems that can display arrhythmia, and in fact, to other chemical or physical systems, sharing similar properties.
The aim of this research topic is to collect a series of original research articles that would (i) present current trends and advances in the use of simulations towards answering the questions mentioned above (ii) provide a solid interpretation by multiscale modelling of biological rhythms and (iii) plot future directions and avenues for the field. Note that we do not restrict ourselves to the normal and pathological rhythms occurring in the heart and also welcome original research articles on simulating rhythms and dysrhythms in other excitable physiological systems such as the uterine myometrium, gastro-intestinal systems etc.
Keywords: Physiological Rhythms, Arrhythmia, Excitable Media, Multiscale Modeling, Computational Cardiology
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