Fundamentally, the heart needs to generate sufficient force and power output to dynamically meet the needs of the body. Cardiomyocytes contain specialized structures referred to as sarcomeres that power and regulate contraction. Disruption of sarcomeric function or regulation impairs contractility and leads to cardiomyopathies and heart failure. Basic, translational, and clinical studies have adapted numerous methods to assess cardiac contraction in a variety of pathophysiological contexts. These tools measure aspects of cardiac contraction at different scales ranging from single molecules to whole organisms. Moreover, these studies have revealed new pathogenic mechanisms of heart disease leading to the development of novel therapies targeting contractility. In this review, the authors explore the breadth of tools available for studying cardiac contractile function across scales, discuss their strengths and limitations, highlight new insights into cardiac physiology and pathophysiology, and describe how these insights can be harnessed for therapeutic candidate development and translational.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJACC: Basic to Translational Science
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • contractility
  • myocyte
  • myofibril
  • optical methods
  • optical tweezers
  • traction force


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