Crude Oil Impairs Cardiac Excitation-Contraction Coupling in Fish

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Science  14 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6172, pp. 772-776
DOI: 10.1126/science.1242747

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Oil Is Bad for the Heart

Crude oil, which commonly makes up the largest proportion of spilled oil, is cardiotoxic to fish embryos. To better understand the processes involved, Brette et al. (p. 772) exposed captive young tuna to oil samples collected from the Deep Water Horizon spill site to determine the mode of cardiotoxicity. Crude oil prolonged the action potential of cardiomyocytes and disrupted the excitation-contraction coupling in these cells, functionally disrupting cellular excitability and creating the potential for cardiac arrhythmias. Such cardiac impacts may be more broadly distributed in vertebrates exposed to crude oil.