Study provides insight into zincs important role in heartbeat regulation

Leicester researchers have been involved in a study with University of St Andrews examining the role zinc plays in regulating heartbeat.

Scientists behind the study, published by the Journal of Biological Chemistry, say it represents a 'paradigm shift' in our understanding of how the heart works and they hope the work could lead to the development of potential new drug targets in the fight against heart failure.

The research identifies a key role that zinc plays in regulating calcium movements in heart cells. This is important as excessive release of calcium is a major cause of heart failure and fatal arrhythmias.

Unregulated zinc movements are linked with chronic heart failure and the study’s data provide a plausible mechanistic explanation of how this may occur.

The work at the cellular level was conducted by Dr Richard Rainbow (pictured) from the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, which allowed the team to test the effect of zinc within the context of a heart cell.

Dr Rainbow said: “It always amazes me that seemingly small changes in the concentration of an ion have such profound effects on cardiac cell function that, when in the context of the whole heart, would have severe consequences.

"Although these early findings are extremely exciting, there is still much work to be done to fully understand the processes involved. This exciting opportunity not only gives us new insights into the mechanisms of disease but also gives the potential to identify new drug targets not previously recognised.”