For the first time, scientists have produced a mathematical model of the activity in the heart which controls its beating.
The team from the University of Nottingham modelled the calcium activity within the atrial heart cell, relied upon when the heart needs to work harder.
The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, should improve the chances of treating heart disease and stroke.
Dr Rüdiger Thul, a lecturer in applied mathematics in the School of Mathematical Sciences, said: "For the first time we can manipulate cellular properties throughout a whole atrial muscle cell in order to deduce which conditions give rise to abnormalities.
"This has the potential to point to new treatments for heart disease and irregular heart beat such as atrial fibrillation."
He added the model will allow the team to selectively activate, deactivate, over or under express cellular properties and see how this impacts calcium patterns, which the atrial cells rely on for their health.
Data from the US suggests that over 27 million people in the country alone suffer from heart disease, equating to around 11.8 per cent of the population.