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Mathematical models of the heart have developed over a period of about 40 years. Cell types in all regions of the heart have been modelled and they are now being incorporated into anatomically detailed models of the whole organ. This combination is leading to the creation of the first 'virtual organ,' which is being used in drug discovery and testing, and in simulating the action of devices, such as cardiac defibrillators. Simulation is a necessary tool of analysis in attempting to understand biological complexity. We often learn as much from the failures as from the successes of mathematical models. It is the iterative interaction between experiment and simulation that is important. Examples are given where this process has been instrumental in some of the major advances in the field.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1155 - 1163


Animals, Biological Clocks, Calcium, Dogs, Heart, Humans, Models, Anatomic, Models, Theoretical, Software, Time Factors