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Analysis Scripts Help Researchers Detect Heart Differences Between Neonatals and Adults in Far Less Time

By Craig Clarkson, Ph.D., Professor of Pharmacology
William Crumb, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana


Data analysis scripts have played a critical role in a study investigating the physiological differences of heart tissue samples obtained from newborn and adult patients. Significant differences in the behavior of electrical currents, which help regulate the beating of the heart, were discovered during this study. An analysis of the information obtained through this study will assist physicians in deciding which drugs and dosages provide the most benefit for the treatment of newborns with cardiac arrhythmias. The use of the Origin™ has helped to reduce the time needed for analysis by the researchers.

Drugs commonly prescribed for adults with heart disease produce their effects by binding to ion channels in the cell membranes of heart tissue. While there is knowledge about the action of these drugs on adult hearts, there have been questions as to the physiological differences in newborn hearts and if these differences result in an altered sensitivity to these drugs.

The researchers carried out their study on samples of human heart tissue obtained from patients undergoing open-heart surgery. Heart cells obtained from twenty newborn patients (ages 1 day - 2.5 years) and eight adult patients (ages 11-68 years) were included in the study. In most of the experiments, hundreds to thousands of data traces were stored for later analysis.

To analyze the large amount of data obtained during the experiments, each data file had to be imported into one program that could detect peak values. The peak signals for the data traces recorded during an experiment could then be imported into one or more additional programs for additional curve fitting and statistical analysis. This required a full day for analysis of data collected during a one-hour experiment.

To reduce the analysis time and have all of the analysis tools they needed, the authors selected Origin, a technical graphics and data analysis software from Microcal™ Software, Incorporated. They used Origin’s pCLAMP module to read and import the data into Origin. As a result of their development of a customized script-driven graphical interface, the researchers were able to analyze a large amount of data in a fraction of the time it would have taken using previous methods.

The results of the study indicate that there are age-related changes in ion channels that occur in the heart. This study further suggests that there may be "significant differences" in the response of the newborn heart to drugs that act by blocking these ion channels. Tulane scientists are currently working on expanding the Origin-based data analysis program to include a final phase of statistical analysis of the data obtained in this study.

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