Modelling of Cardiac Electrophysiology
In 1960, our research group was the first to develop mathematical models of cardiac cells, an area that has now exploded in the literature, with strong groups in the USA, Japan, New Zealand, Russia. Modelling helps to understand complex biological functions, and is therefore part of what is now called Systems Biology. Our cardiac models also have applications in the drug industry and in the development of medical devices. All the recent developments have their starting points in models we originally developed successively with our collaborators, including Dick Tsien, Dario DiFrancesco and Don Hilgemann.
Like the paradigm for such work, the Hodgkin-Huxley equations, the work is strongly based on experimental work with which it continually interacts. In recent years, the cellular models have been incorporated into the whole organ models developed by Peter Hunter and his team in New Zealand.
Current Research Programme
Our work forms part of the International (IUPS) Human Physiome Project and the EU Virtual Physiological Human Project. The current focus is on the reconstruction of cardiac arrhythmia mechanisms, from genetics to the whole organ. This is an area where modelling has already succeeded in practical applications in the pharmaceutical industry. Industrial collaborators on the current projects include Roche, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Servier.
These collaborations with pharmaceutical companies have been developed into the EU Framework 7 project called PreDiCT (http://www.vph-predict.eu/), which is tackling the problem of testing drugs for cardiac side-effects including prolongation of the QT interval of the electrocardiogram.
The more theoretical aims of our work are pursued within the framework of Systems Biology, which we interpret as a search for the logic of biological systems at all levels from genes to whole organs and organisms (see Noble, The Music of Life, Oxford University Press, 2006). See www.musicoflife.co.uk