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Since the early 80s, when isolation of cardiac myocytes of various origin and application of the whole cell patch clamp technique became commonly used, a tremendous development in our knowledge on the physiology, pharmacology, and biochemistry of cardiac cells have been accumulated. Without attempting of outlining the full cross section of the research area, some hot topics - found peculiarly interesting by the editor and authors of this book - have been chosen to illustrate the progress. Electrophysiological properties of mammalian cardiomyocytes, including intracardial distribution of individual ion channels, kinetic characteristics of ion currents underlying the cardiac action potential, and the experimental techniques used to study these currents, are discussed throughout the first four chapters. As electrical events of the surface membrane may mainly influence cardiac function by modifying intracellular calcium concentration of the myocytes, properties of the dominant determinants of cardiac calcium handling, RyR2 and SERCA2 in the sarcoplasmic reticulum and the Na+/Ca2+ exchanger of the sarcolemma, are analyzed in the subsequent two chapters. Intimate features of force production by the contractile machinery can be also best studied in isolated cardiomyocytes after destruction of their sarcolemma, as shown in Chapter 7. While stress adaptation is a basic mechanism of cardiac survival under pathological conditions, using stem cells in myocardial repair is one of the most promising new therapeutic tools. These perspectives are outlined in the last two chapters. Each of the nine chapters in this book can be considered as a sample of the past, present or future of cardiomyocyte research. The authors and the editor strongly believe that presentation of a new book on the same topic will be soon required - probably within a few years - due to the exponentially increasing research activity in this field.
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