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Circ Res. 2008 Apr 25;102(8):975-85. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.108.172403. Epub 2008 Feb 28.

Computer three-dimensional reconstruction of the atrioventricular node.

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Cardiovascular Research Group, Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, University of Manchester, Core Technology Facility, 46 Grafton St, Manchester M13 9NT, United Kingdom.


Because of its complexity, the atrioventricular node (AVN), remains 1 of the least understood regions of the heart. The aim of the study was to construct a detailed anatomic model of the AVN and relate it to AVN function. The electric activity of a rabbit AVN preparation was imaged using voltage-dependent dye. The preparation was then fixed and sectioned. Sixty-five sections at 60- to 340-microm intervals were stained for histology and immunolabeled for neurofilament (marker of nodal tissue) and connexin43 (gap junction protein). This revealed multiple structures within and around the AVN, including transitional tissue, inferior nodal extension, penetrating bundle, His bundle, atrial and ventricular muscle, central fibrous body, tendon of Todaro, and valves. A 3D anatomically detailed mathematical model (approximately 13 million element array) of the AVN and surrounding atrium and ventricle, incorporating all cell types, was constructed. Comparison of the model with electric activity recorded in experiments suggests that the inferior nodal extension forms the slow pathway, whereas the transitional tissue forms the fast pathway into the AVN. In addition, it suggests the pacemaker activity of the atrioventricular junction originates in the inferior nodal extension. Computer simulation of the propagation of the action potential through the anatomic model shows how, because of the complex structure of the AVN, reentry (slow-fast and fast-slow) can occur. In summary, a mathematical model of the anatomy of the AVN has been generated that allows AVN conduction to be explored.

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