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Trends Mol Med. 2011 Oct;17(10):556-63. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2011.05.007. Epub 2011 Jul 15.

Inflammatory pathways underlying atrial fibrillation.

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Department of Electrophysiology, University Heart Center Hamburg, Hamburg 20246, Germany.


The pathophysiology of atrial fibrillation (AF) remains incompletely understood, despite its prevalence and contributing role in stroke and heart failure. Whereas previous studies have focused on the electrophysiological characteristics of AF, recent reports shed light on structural remodeling of the atria as a prerequisite for AF. Recent evidence suggests that atrial fibrosis is linked not only to stimulation of myocytes and fibroblasts, but also to the activation state of leukocytes. Recruitment of leukocytes with the release of reactive oxygen species, cytokines and growth factors is followed by increased matrix deposition, which leads to adverse atrial remodeling and suggests that inflammatory pathways are a prerequisite for AF. Here we review current evidence demonstrating the interrelation between inflammation and AF.

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