Cardiac fibrosis and arrhythmogenesis

My Nhan Nguyen, Helen Kiriazis, Xiao-Ming Gao, Xiao Jun Du

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31 Citations (Scopus)


Myocardial injury, mechanical stress, neurohormonal activation, inflammation, and/or aging all lead to cardiac remodeling, which is responsible for cardiac dysfunction and arrhythmogenesis. Of the key histological components of cardiac remodeling, fibrosis either in the form of interstitial, patchy, or dense scars, constitutes a key histological substrate of arrhythmias. Here we discuss current research findings focusing on the role of fibrosis, in arrhythmogenesis. Numerous studies have convincingly shown that patchy or interstitial fibrosis interferes with myocardial electrophysiology by slowing down action potential propagation, initiating reentry, promoting after-depolarizations, and increasing ectopic automaticity. Meanwhile, there has been increasing appreciation of direct involvement of myofibroblasts, the activated form of fibroblasts, in arrhythmogenesis. Myofibroblasts undergo phenotypic changes with expression of gap-junctions and ion channels thereby forming direct electrical coupling with cardiomyocytes, which potentially results in profound disturbances of electrophysiology. There is strong evidence that systemic and regional inflammatory processes contribute to fibrogenesis (i.e., structural remodeling) and dysfunction of ion channels and Ca2+ homeostasis (i.e., electrical remodeling). Recognizing the pivotal role of fibrosis in the arrhythmogenesis has promoted clinical research on characterizing fibrosis by means of cardiac imaging or fibrosis biomarkers for clinical stratification of patients at higher risk of lethal arrhythmia, as well as preclinical research on the development of antifibrotic therapies. At the end of this review, we discuss remaining key questions in this area and propose new research approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1009-1049
Number of pages41
JournalComprehensive Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017

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