Biomedical optics express

Mapping conduction velocity of early embryonic hearts with a robust fitting algorithm.

PMID 26114034


Cardiac conduction maturation is an important and integral component of heart development. Optical mapping with voltage-sensitive dyes allows sensitive measurements of electrophysiological signals over the entire heart. However, accurate measurements of conduction velocity during early cardiac development is typically hindered by low signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) measurements of action potentials. Here, we present a novel image processing approach based on least squares optimizations, which enables high-resolution, low-noise conduction velocity mapping of smaller tubular hearts. First, the action potential trace measured at each pixel is fit to a curve consisting of two cumulative normal distribution functions. Then, the activation time at each pixel is determined based on the fit, and the spatial gradient of activation time is determined with a two-dimensional (2D) linear fit over a square-shaped window. The size of the window is adaptively enlarged until the gradients can be determined within a preset precision. Finally, the conduction velocity is calculated based on the activation time gradient, and further corrected for three-dimensional (3D) geometry that can be obtained by optical coherence tomography (OCT). We validated the approach using published activation potential traces based on computer simulations. We further validated the method by adding artificially generated noise to the signal to simulate various SNR conditions using a curved simulated image (digital phantom) that resembles a tubular heart. This method proved to be robust, even at very low SNR conditions (SNR = 2-5). We also established an empirical equation to estimate the maximum conduction velocity that can be accurately measured under different conditions (e.g. sampling rate, SNR, and pixel size). Finally, we demonstrated high-resolution conduction velocity maps of the quail embryonic heart at a looping stage of development.