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Integr Biol (Camb). 2012 Feb;4(2):153-64. doi: 10.1039/c1ib00087j. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

Reversible alteration of calcium dynamics in cardiomyocytes during acute hypoxia transient in a microfluidic platform.

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Dipartimento di Principi e Impianti di Ingegneria Chimica, University of Padova, Via Marzolo, 9, 35131 Padova, Italy.


Heart disease is the leading cause of mortality in western countries. Apart from congenital and anatomical alterations, ischemia is the most common agent causing myocardial damage. During ischemia, a sudden decrease in oxygen concentration alters cardiomyocyte function and compromises cell survival. The calcium handling machinery, which regulates the main functional features of a cardiomyocyte, is heavily compromised during acute hypoxic events. Alterations in calcium dynamics have been linked to both short- and long-term consequences of ischemia, ranging from arrhythmias to heart failure. In this perspective, we aimed at investigating the calcium dynamics in functional cardiomyocytes during the early phase of a hypoxic event. For this purpose, we developed a microfluidic system specifically designed for controlling fast oxygen concentration dynamics through a gas micro-exchanger allowing in line analysis of intracellular calcium concentration by confocal microscopy. Experimental results show that exposure of Fluo-4 loaded neonatal rat cardiomyocytes to hypoxic conditions induced changes in intracellular Ca(2+) transients. Such behavior was reversible and was detected for hypoxic levels below 5% of oxygen partial pressure. The observed changes in Ca(2+) dynamics were mimicked using specific L-type Ca(2+) channel antagonists, suggesting that alterations in calcium channel function occur at low oxygen levels. Reversible alteration in ion channel function, that takes place in response to changes in cellular oxygen, might represent an adaptive mechanism of cardiopreservation during ischemia.

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