A model of cardiac contraction based on novel measurements of tension development in human cardiomyocytes

J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2017 May:106:68-83. doi: 10.1016/j.yjmcc.2017.03.008. Epub 2017 Apr 7.


Experimental data from human cardiac myocytes at body temperature is crucial for a quantitative understanding of clinically relevant cardiac function and development of whole-organ computational models. However, such experimental data is currently very limited. Specifically, important measurements to characterize changes in tension development in human cardiomyocytes that occur with perturbations in cell length are not available. To address this deficiency, in this study we present an experimental data set collected from skinned human cardiac myocytes, including the passive and viscoelastic properties of isolated myocytes, the steady-state force calcium relationship at different sarcomere lengths, and changes in tension following a rapid increase or decrease in length, and after constant velocity shortening. This data set is, to our knowledge, the first characterization of length and velocity-dependence of tension generation in human skinned cardiac myocytes at body temperature. We use this data to develop a computational model of contraction and passive viscoelasticity in human myocytes. Our model includes troponin C kinetics, tropomyosin kinetics, a three-state crossbridge model that accounts for the distortion of crossbridges, and the cellular viscoelastic response. Each component is parametrized using our experimental data collected in human cardiomyocytes at body temperature. Furthermore we are able to confirm that properties of length-dependent activation at 37°C are similar to other species, with a shift in calcium sensitivity and increase in maximum tension. We revise our model of tension generation in the skinned isolated myocyte to replicate reported tension traces generated in intact muscle during isometric tension, to provide a model of human tension generation for multi-scale simulations. This process requires changes to calcium sensitivity, cooperativity, and crossbridge transition rates. We apply this model within multi-scale simulations of biventricular cardiac function and further refine the parametrization within the whole organ context, based on obtaining a healthy ejection fraction. This process reveals that crossbridge cycling rates differ between skinned myocytes and intact myocytes.

Keywords: Cardiac muscle; Computational modelling; Force generation; Human cardiomyocytes; Viscoelasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology
  • Kinetics
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Myocardial Contraction / physiology
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / pathology
  • Sarcomeres / chemistry
  • Sarcomeres / metabolism
  • Troponin C / chemistry*
  • Troponin C / metabolism


  • Troponin C
  • Calcium