Effects of ventricular unloading on apoptosis and atrophy of cardiac myocytes

Stefano Schena, Yoshihiko Kurimoto, Johji Fukada, Ivan Tack, Phillip Ruiz, Manhui Pang, Liliane J. Striker, Abdelouahab Aitouche, Si M. Pham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background Ventricular unloading decreases cardiac ventricular mass. This loss of ventricular mass can be due to either atrophy (a reversible process) or apoptosis (an irreversible process) of the cardiac myocytes. We investigated the effect of ventricular unloading on atrophy and apoptosis of cardiac myocytes, using working and nonworking transplant heart models in rats. Materials and methods ACI rats underwent heterotopic heart transplantation with two different techniques to create working and nonworking cardiac grafts. Cardiac grafts were harvested at different time points after transplantation. TUNEL, caspase-3 assay, and electron microscopy were used to assess the degree of apoptosis while cellular atrophy was estimated by calculation of the cytoplasmic index (CI = mean sectional cytoplasmic area/nucleus). Results Ventricular mass reduction was more pronounced in nonworking than in working hearts (P < 0.05). Apoptotic index and caspase-3 activities increased in both groups, peaking at 3 days after transplantation, but were not significantly different between the two models. The cytoplasmic index was significantly lower in nonworking than in working grafts (P < 0.05). Conclusions These data suggest that cellular atrophy is the primary mechanism that accounts for myocardial weight reduction following ventricular unloading. The inference is that ventricular unloading by ventricular assist devices may not cause permanent loss of cardiac myocytes, thus allowing for functional recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-126
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2004


  • apoptosis
  • cardiac atrophy
  • caspase-3
  • heart transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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