Multiarm spirals in a two-dimensional cardiac substrate

Nenad Bursac, Felipe Aguel, Leslie Tung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A variety of chemical and biological nonlinear excitable media, including heart tissue, can support stable, self-organized waves of activity in a form of rotating single-arm spirals. In particular, heart tissue can support stationary and meandering spirals of electrical excitation, which have been shown to underlie different forms of cardiac arrhythmias. In contrast to single-arm spirals, stable multiarm spirals (multiple spiral waves that rotate in the same direction around a common organizing center) have not been demonstrated and studied yet in living excitable tissues. Here, we show that persistent multiarm spirals of electrical activity can be induced in monolayer cultures of neonatal rat heart cells by a short, rapid train of electrical point stimuli applied during single-arm-spiral activity. Stable formation is accomplished only in monolayers that show a relatively broad and steep dependence of impulse wavelength and propagation velocity on rate of excitation. The resulting multiarm spirals emit waves of electrical activity at rates faster than for single-arm spirals and exhibit two distinct behaviors, namely "arm-switching" and "tip-switching." The phenomenon of rate acceleration due to an increase in the number of spiral arms possibly may underlie the acceleration of functional reentrant tachycardias paced by a clinician or an antitachycardia device.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15530-15534
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 26 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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