Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the industrialized world. The development of heart disease and, in turn, heart failure is most often a consequence of dysfunction within individual heart muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes. Individual cardiomyocytes represent the smallest fully functional model system of heart muscle that can be examined for ion regulation, force production, relaxation function, cell signaling, and gene expression.
Biochemical, molecular and hemodynamic changes can fundamentally alter the functionality of the cardiomyocyte, and hence understanding the regulatory factors in cardiomyocyte function is essential in the discovery and development of therapeutic interventions. Studies utilizing isolated cardiomyocytes have yielded important information regarding cardiomyopathies including, but not limited to, myocardial infarction, atrial fibrillation and sudden adult death syndrome.