OXFORD scientists have discovered a new technique to visualise the chemical process that makes the heart beat for the first time.

The team was able to use a protein found in marine corals to see the flow of calcium in and out of heart fibres, resulting in the muscle contracting and relaxing.

The breakthrough could lead to a greater understanding and improved treatment for a range of heart conditions, according to the research team.

Researcher at Oxford University’s Radcliffe Department of Medicine Dr Matthew Daniels said: “Our technique found hypertrophic cardiomyopathy works in a very different way from what we’d thought previously.

"This is because our method really allows us to focus on the actual site where the muscle fibres contract, while avoiding signals from other parts of the cell"

He added: "We will be able to use lots of different approaches to understand fundamental problems like how the heart is built the way it is in the first place.

"We’ll also be able to probe how it is going wrong in heart disease, which will help us come up with newer and better treatments.”

The work was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the British Heart Foundation.