We investigate the interaction of intracellular calcium spatio-temporal variations with the self-sustained contractions in cardiac myocytes. A consistent mathematical model is presented considering a hyperelastic description of the passive mechanical properties of the cell, combined with an active-strain framework to explain the active shortening of myocytes and its coupling with cytosolic and sarcoplasmic calcium dynamics. A finite element method based on a Taylor-Hood discretization is employed to approximate the nonlinear elasticity equations, whereas the calcium concentration and mechanical activation variables are discretized by piecewise linear finite elements. Several numerical tests illustrate the ability of the model in predicting key experimentally established characteristics including: (i) calcium propagation patterns and contractility, (ii) the influence of boundary conditions and cell shape on the onset of structural and active anisotropy and (iii) the high localized stress distributions at the focal adhesions. Besides, they also highlight the potential of the method in elucidating some important subcellular mechanisms affecting, e.g. cardiac repolarization.
Keywords: active-strain contraction; calcium propagation; cardiomyocyte modelling; coupled multiphysics; finite element formulation; nonlinear elasticity.
© The Authors 2013. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. All rights reserved.