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Jun 08, 2002, 00:01 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

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"Fibrillation is a very serious condition, but even here there is a matter of degrees: a common form of fibrillation is atrial fibrillation (AF), a condition that effects around 2 million people in the United States. AF is not usually regarded as especially life-threatening--the brief periods of signal misfires can cause discomfort, but typically are not fatal...

"Not so ventricular fibrillation, where the misfires are so strong and so erratic, the heart quickly loses the ability to pump blood. VF, or "v fib" as the doctors in the ER call it, is just about the end of the line for the heart, unless it can be stopped with defibrillation...

"Today, right now, research is taking place to learn just what triggers a fibrillation, with the hope that perhaps such events can be shut down before they even get started.

"One such research program is taking place at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB), where the effects of electrical fields on human heart tissue are observed not in a gory lab, but rather in the confines of a Beowulf cluster of servers running Linux..."

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