Computer Simulations Cardiac hypertrophy may be considered as the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes. This condition may be often accompanied by many life-threatening cardiac disorders including irregular heartbeats and hypertension. Researchers have now laid hands on a crucial enzyme molecule that can restrict fatal cardiac disorders related to cardiac hypertrophy.

Several laboratory experiments and computer simulations were employed to pinpoint that the enzyme MKK4 is involved in preventing arrhythmias. This enzyme presumably modifies another protein, connexin that forms an electrical bridge between adjacent heart cells. So the conduction of electrical activity across the heart as an excitation wave which may result in synchronized mechanical contraction of the heart with a regular heartbeat rhythm.

“Using experimental measurements together with detailed computer models, we were able to simulate the electrical activity in cardiac tissue with disrupted electrical coupling between adjacent cardiac cells,” said Dr Xin Wang, in Manchester’s Faculty of Life Science. “The information generated from this study will help us to identify whether the MKK4 enzyme could become a therapeutic target for the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias in association with cardiac hypertrophy.”

During the investigation, it was affirmed that loss of the MKK4 protein disrupts the spatial distribution of connexin. As a result, the electrical coupling between heart cells may be reduced. This probably triggers a fragmented excitation wave in the heart, leading to uncoordinated heart muscle contraction and irregular heart rhythm. The heart then loses its power to pump blood efficiently, allegedly causing disability or sudden cardiac death. The research findings can possibly help detect the most important factor behind the sudden cardiac death associated with cardiac hypertrophy.

The research is published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry.