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Am J Cardiovasc Dis. 2011;1(2):101-9. Epub 2011 Jun 12.

Targeting cardiac fibrosis: a new frontier in antiarrhythmic therapy?

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Translational Arrhythmia Research Section, UCLA Cardiovascular Research Laboratory and the Division of Cardiology, Departments of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Los Angeles, California, USA.


Cardiac fibrosis is known to alter cardiac conduction and promote reentry. Recent evidence indicates that fibrosis characterized by increased interstitial collagen accumulation and increased myofibroblast proliferation also promotes enhanced automaticity and early afterdepolarizations (EADs) causing triggered activity. Fibrosis then becomes an effective therapeutic target for the management of lethal cardiac arrhythmias. While oxidative stress with hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) is shown to readily promote EADs and triggered activity in isolated rat and rabbit ventricular myocytes however, this same stress fails to cause EADs in well-coupled, non-fibrotic hearts due to source-to-sink mismatches arising from cell-to-cell coupling. The triggered activity in the aged fibrotic hearts causes focal ventricular tachycardia (VT) that degenerates within seconds to ventricular fibrillation (VF) after the emergence of spatially discordant action potential duration alternans leading to wavebreak, reentry and VF. Computer simulations in 2D tissue incorporating variable degrees of fibrosis showed that intermediate (but not mild or very severe) fibrosis promoted EADs and TA. Human studies have shown that myocardial fibrosis was an independent predictor for arrhythmias including sustained VT and VF. A variety of drug classes including, torsemide, a loop diuretic, that inhibits the enzyme involved in the myocardial extracellular generation of collagen type I molecules and the inhibitors of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS), the mineralocorticoid receptors and endothelin receptors reduce cardiac fibrosis with reduction of myocardial stiffness and improved ventricular function. It is hoped that in the near future effective antifibrotic drug regimen would be developed to reduce the risk of fibrosis related VT and VF.


Early afterdepolarization; discordant alternans; fibrosis; myofibroblast; optical mapping; oxidative stress; triggered activity; ventricular fibrillation; ventricular tachycardia

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