CORDIS - EU research results

Directed networks as a novel approach for improving the management of cardiac arrhythmias

Project description

Application of network theory for the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias

Cardiac arrhythmia remains the leading cause of death in the Western world. The most frequent arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation, is rising steeply due to the ageing population and is not well understood. Therefore, there is an urgent need to improve our understanding of the sources of arrhythmia to improve its treatment. Network theory is a way to study systems with discrete elements and their interaction. The EU-funded SMARTHEART project aims to apply network theory for the first time to clinical data of cardiac arrhythmia in combination with in-silico simulations. Innovative research tools aim to automatically detect the source of any arrhythmia identifying ablation targets. Promising preliminary results already show that this works for simple arrhythmia.


The management of cardiac arrhythmia remains the largest problem in cardiac electrophysiology. The prevalence of the most frequent arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation (AF), is expected to rise steeply due to the ageing population. In spite of intensive research, the mechanism of atrial fibrillation remains unclear, leading to poor results in its treatment. Ablation of AF often results in complex atrial tachycardia (AT), which are difficult to treat. Also ventricular tachycardias (VT) and fibrillations (VF) are a major cause of sudden cardiac death. Again, eliminating VTs with ablation has achieved only modest success in complex cases. Therefore, there is an urgent need to better understand and localize the sources of arrhythmia in order to improve its treatment. I propose a radical new approach of applying network theory to study the mechanisms of AT, VT and AF. Currently, network theory is known for being the basis for the Google search engine other online social networks, and has myriad applications throughout biology, physics, and social sciences. However, it has never been applied to the heart. In this proposal, based on my invention and preliminary work, I propose to apply network theory to clinical data of cardiac arrhythmia, backed-up by in-silico simulations. A new set of research tools will be created to automatically detect the source of the arrhythmia for complex AT and AF, which will identify possible ablation targets. For VT a substrate analysis is proposed, in order to reveal the structure of the heart to also determine the ablation target. My preliminary results already show that network analysis is able to automatically predict sites of ablation, prior to surgery in AT, largely exceeding the most recent technologies currently used in clinics. Therefore, this translational project will not only provide novel insights into the mechanism of cardiac arrhythmia, but will actually lead to an improved treatment for the patient.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 498 125,00
9000 Gent

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Vlaams Gewest Prov. Oost-Vlaanderen Arr. Gent
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 498 125,00

Beneficiaries (1)