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Physiol Rev. 2003 Oct;83(4):1113-51.

Preconditioning the myocardium: from cellular physiology to clinical cardiology.

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The Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Studies, Centre for Cardiology, University College London Hospital and Medical School, Grafton Way, London, UK.


The phenomenon of ischemic preconditioning, in which a period of sublethal ischemia can profoundly protect the cell from infarction during a subsequent ischemic insult, has been responsible for an enormous amount of research over the last 15 years. Ischemic preconditioning is associated with two forms of protection: a classical form lasting approximately 2 h after the preconditioning ischemia followed a day later by a second window of protection lasting approximately 3 days. Both types of preconditioning share similarities in that the preconditioning ischemia provokes the release of several autacoids that trigger protection by occupying cell surface receptors. Receptor occupancy activates complex signaling cascades which during the lethal ischemia converge on one or more end-effectors to mediate the protection. The end-effectors so far have eluded identification, although a number have been proposed. A range of different pharmacological agents that activate the signaling cascades at the various levels can mimic ischemic preconditioning leading to the hope that specific therapeutic agents can be designed to exploit the profound protection seen with ischemic preconditioning. This review examines, in detail, the complex mechanisms associated with both forms of preconditioning as well as discusses the possibility to exploit this phenomenon in the clinical setting. As our understanding of the mechanisms associated with preconditioning are unravelled, we believe we can look forward to the development of new therapeutic agents with novel mechanisms of action that can supplement current treatment options for patients threatened with acute myocardial infarction.

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