Auckland Bioengineering Institute

Cardiac Metabolism


The electrical and mechanical performance of the heart is fundamentally dependent upon its metabolism. Reduced blood supply to the heart (ischaemia), compromising its metabolism, is the main cause of mortality in the developed world.

Altered metabolism and its effect on mechanical and electrical properties of heart cells

This altered metabolism produces many changes to the mechanical and electrical properties of heart cells. Despite extensive experimental studies, however, the complicated sequence of events leading from the initial trigger, the blockage of a coronary artery, to life-threatening pump failure remains poorly understood.

Using experimental techniques to understand complex cardiac function

We utilise both theoretical and experimental techniques to study this complex cardiac function. We have developed a unique microcalorimeter to simultaneously measure heat production and mechanical performance (force and shortening) of isolated cardiac trabeculae. We combine this experimental approach with the development of biophysically-based mathematical models of cardiac metabolism with the particular aim of characterising metabolic compromise during ischaemic events.


Mounted rat trabecula

Schematic diagram of a rat trabecula mounted in the microcalorimeter.


Heat and force production of trabecula

Heat output (upper, red trace) and force production (lower, blue trace) of a trabecula during a Ba2+-contracture.


Simulated responses to respiratory acidosis

Simulated responses (pHi, [Na+]i, [Ca2+]i and force) to respiratory acidosis, induced by reversibly increasing extracellular CO2 from 1.2 to 10 mM (indicated by the bar).


Heart contraction cycle

The regional work calculated through the heart contraction cycle, the small cubes located at the Gaussian quadrature points in the deforming finite element mesh are coloured according to the work from blue (low) to red (high).

Funding partners

The Cardiac Metabolism Project gratefully acknowledges the support of its funding partners: