Friday, April 21, 2023

The Magnetic Field Associated with a Plane Wave Front Propagating Through Cardiac Tissue

When I was on the faculty at Vanderbilt University, my student Marcella Woods and I examined the magnetic field produced by electrical activity in a sheet of cardiac muscle. I really like this analysis, because it provides a different view of the mechanism producing the magnetic field compared to that used by other researchers studying the magnetocardiogram. In another publication, here is how I describe our research. I hope you find it useful.
Roth and Marcella Woods examined an action potential propagating through a two-dimensional sheet of cardiac muscle [58]. In Fig. 6, a wave front is propagating to the right, so the myocardium on the left is fully depolarized and on the right is at rest. Cardiac muscle is anisotropic, meaning it has a different electrical conductivity parallel to the myocardial fibers than perpendicular to them. In Fig. 6, the fibers are oriented at an angle to the direction of propagation. The intracellular voltage gradient is in the propagation direction (horizontal in Fig. 6), but the anisotropy rotates the intracellular current toward the fiber axis. The same thing happens to the extracellular current, except that in cardiac muscle the intracellular conductivity is more anisotropic than the extracellular conductivity, so the extracellular current is not rotated as far. Continuity requires that the components of the intra- and extracellular current densities in the propagation direction are equal and opposite. Their sum therefore points perpendicular to the direction of propagation, creating a magnetic field that comes out of the plane of the tissue on the left and into the plane on the right (Fig. 6) [58–60].
Figure 6. The current and magnetic field produced by a planar wave front propagating in a two-dimensional sheet of cardiac muscle. The muscle is anisotropic with a higher conductivity along the myocardial fibers.

This perspective of the current and magnetic field in cardiac muscle is unlike that ordinarily adopted when analyzing the magnetocardiogram, where the impressed current is typically taken as in the same direction as propagation. Nonetheless, experiments by Jenny Holzer in Wikswo’s lab confirmed the behavior shown in Fig. 6 [61].

The main references are:

58. Roth, B.J.; Woods, M.C. The magnetic field associated with a plane wave front propagating through cardiac tissue. IEEE Trans. Biomed. Eng. 1999, 46, 1288–1292.

61. Holzer, J.R.; Fong, L.E.; Sidorov, V.Y.; Wikswo, J.P.; Baudenbacher, F. High resolution magnetic images of planar wave fronts reveal bidomain properties of cardiac tissue. Biophys. J. 2004, 87, 4326–4332. 

You can learn more about how magnetic fields are generated by cardiac muscle by reading about what happens at the apex of the heart. Or, solve homework problem 19 in Chapter 8 of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology.

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