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Heart Fail Rev. 2014 Mar;19(2):173-85. doi: 10.1007/s10741-012-9365-4.

Fibrosis and heart failure.

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Department of Cardiovascular Pathology Research, Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, MC 1-283, PO Box 20345, Houston, TX, 77225-0345, USA,


The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a living network of proteins that maintains the structural integrity of the myocardium and allows the transmission of electrical and mechanical forces between the myocytes for systole and diastole. During ventricular remodeling, as a result of iterations in the hemodynamic workload, collagen, the main component of the ECM, increases and occupies the areas between the myocytes and the vessels. The resultant fibrosis (reparative fibrosis) is initially a compensatory mechanism and may progress adversely influencing tissue stiffness and ventricular function. Replacement fibrosis appears at sites of previous cardiomyocyte necrosis to preserve the structural integrity of the myocardium, but with the subsequent formation of scar tissue and widespread distribution, it has adverse functional consequences. Continued accumulation of collagen impairs diastolic function and compromises systolic mechanics. Nevertheless, the development of fibrosis is a dynamic process wherein myofibroblasts, the principal cellular elements of fibrosis, are not only metabolically active and capable of the production and upregulation of cytokines but also have contractile properties. During the process of reverse remodeling with left ventricular assist device unloading, cellular, structural, and functional improvements are observed in terminal heart failure patients. With the advent of anti-fibrotic pharmacologic therapies, cellular therapy, and ventricular support devices, fibrosis has become an important therapeutic target in heart failure patients. Herein, we review the current concepts of fibrosis as a main component of ventricular remodeling in heart failure patients. Our aim is to integrate the histopathologic process of fibrosis with the neurohormonal, cytochemical, and molecular changes that lead to ventricular remodeling and its physiologic consequences in patients. The concept of fibrosis as living scar allows us to envision targeting this scar as a means of improving ventricular function in heart failure patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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