The Ehler Group
Cytoarchitecture of the Heart
Confocal micrograph of transiently transfected heart cells in culture The Ehler group aims to look at the organisation of the heart cell (cardiomyocyte) at a subcellular level; mainly from a cytoskeletal and signalling point of view. We want to find out how its cytoarchitecture is assembled during development and how adaptations to increased work load or during cardiac disease are made.
Heart cells have an extremely regular cytoskeleton with their contractile elements assembled to paracrystalline myofibrils. They are also mechanically and electro-chemically connected to each other at specialised sites of cell-cell contact: the intercalated discs. Any compromise to this extremely regular arrangement has immediate consequences on heart function.
The major focus of our research is elucidating how myofibrils and intercalated disks are assembled in heart cells during development; how they are affected in the diseased heart and what the functional basis is for the adaptations of cardiomyocytes during development.
Only if we understand what goes wrong in cardiomyopathy at the level of the cell and know more about the signalling pathways that cause these changes, will we be able to do more than just treating symptoms.