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1.  The investigation of sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS)—the current approach to family screening and the future role of genomics and stem cell technology 
SADS is defined as sudden death under the age of 40 years old in the absence of structural heart disease. Family screening studies are able to identify a cause in up to 50% of cases-most commonly long QT syndrome (LQTS), Brugada and early repolarization syndrome, and catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT) using standard clinical screening investigations including pharmacological challenge testing. These diagnoses may be supported by genetic testing which can aid cascade screening and may help guide management. In the current era it is possible to undertake molecular autopsy provided suitable samples of DNA can be obtained from the proband. With the evolution of rapid sequencing techniques it is possible to sequence the whole exome for candidate genes. This major advance offers the opportunity to identify novel causes of lethal arrhythmia but also poses the challenge of managing the volume of data generated and evaluating variants of unknown significance (VUS). The emergence of induced pluripotent stem cell technology could enable evaluation of the electrophysiological relevance of specific ion channel mutations in the proband or their relatives and will potentially enable screening of idiopathic ventricular fibrillation survivors combining genetic and electrophysiological studies in derived myocytes. This also could facilitate the assessment of personalized preventative pharmacological therapies. This review will evaluate the current screening strategies in SADS families, the role of molecular autopsy and genetic testing and the potential applications of molecular and cellular diagnostic strategies on the horizon.
PMCID: PMC3771072  PMID: 24062688
sudden death; screening; ion channel; stem cell; SADS
2.  Bridging the gap between computation and clinical biology: validation of cable theory in humans 
Introduction: Computerized simulations of cardiac activity have significantly contributed to our understanding of cardiac electrophysiology, but techniques of simulations based on patient-acquired data remain in their infancy. We sought to integrate data acquired from human electrophysiological studies into patient-specific models, and validated this approach by testing whether electrophysiological responses to sequential premature stimuli could be predicted in a quantitatively accurate manner.
Methods: Eleven patients with structurally normal hearts underwent electrophysiological studies. Semi-automated analysis was used to reconstruct activation and repolarization dynamics for each electrode. This S2 extrastimuli data was used to inform individualized models of cardiac conduction, including a novel derivation of conduction velocity restitution. Activation dynamics of multiple premature extrastimuli were then predicted from this model and compared against measured patient data as well as data derived from the ten-Tusscher cell-ionic model.
Results: Activation dynamics following a premature S3 were significantly different from those after an S2. Patient specific models demonstrated accurate prediction of the S3 activation wave, (Pearson's R2 = 0.90, median error 4%). Examination of the modeled conduction dynamics allowed inferences into the spatial dispersion of activation delay. Further validation was performed against data from the ten-Tusscher cell-ionic model, with our model accurately recapitulating predictions of repolarization times (R2 = 0.99).
Conclusions: Simulations based on clinically acquired data can be used to successfully predict complex activation patterns following sequential extrastimuli. Such modeling techniques may be useful as a method of incorporation of clinical data into predictive models.
PMCID: PMC3761165  PMID: 24027527
conduction velocity restitution; computational modeling; action potential duration; patient specific modeling; cardiac arrhythmia
3.  Electrophysiological abnormalities precede overt structural changes in arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy due to mutations in desmoplakin-A combined murine and human study 
European Heart Journal  2012;33(15):1942-1953.
Anecdotal observations suggest that sub-clinical electrophysiological manifestations of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) develop before detectable structural changes ensue on cardiac imaging. To test this hypothesis, we investigated a murine model with conditional cardiac genetic deletion of one desmoplakin allele (DSP ±) and compared the findings to patients with non-diagnostic features of ARVC who carried mutations in desmoplakin.
Methods and results
Murine: the DSP (±) mice underwent electrophysiological, echocardiographic, and immunohistochemical studies. They had normal echocardiograms but delayed conduction and inducible ventricular tachycardia associated with mislocalization and reduced intercalated disc expression of Cx43. Sodium current density and myocardial histology were normal at 2 months of age. Human: ten patients with heterozygous mutations in DSP without overt structural heart disease (DSP+) and 12 controls with supraventricular tachycardia were studied by high-density electrophysiological mapping of the right ventricle. Using a standard S1–S2 protocol, restitution curves of local conduction and repolarization parameters were constructed. Significantly greater mean increases in delay were identified particularly in the outflow tract vs. controls (P< 0.01) coupled with more uniform wavefront progression. The odds of a segment with a maximal activation–repolarization interval restitution slope >1 was 99% higher (95% CI: 13%; 351%, P= 0.017) in DSP+ vs. controls. Immunostaining revealed Cx43 mislocalization and variable Na channel distribution.
Desmoplakin disease causes connexin mislocalization in the mouse and man preceding any overt histological abnormalities resulting in significant alterations in conduction–repolarization kinetics prior to morphological changes detectable on conventional cardiac imaging. Haploinsufficiency of desmoplakin is sufficient to cause significant Cx43 mislocalization. Changes in sodium current density and histological abnormalities may contribute to a worsening phenotype or disease but are not necessary to generate an arrhythmogenic substrate. This has important implications for the earlier diagnosis of ARVC and risk stratification.
PMCID: PMC3409421  PMID: 22240500
Arrhythmia; Conduction; ARVC; Repolarization; Desmosome; Desmoplakin
4.  Anger, Emotion, and Arrhythmias: from Brain to Heart 
Strong emotion and mental stress are now recognized as playing a significant role in severe and fatal ventricular arrhythmias. The mechanisms, although incompletely understood, include central processing at the cortical and brain stem level, the autonomic nerves and the electrophysiology of the myocardium. Each of these is usually studied separately by investigators from different disciplines. However, many are regulatory processes which incorporate interactive feedforward and feedback mechanisms. In this review we consider the whole as an integrated interactive brain–heart system.
PMCID: PMC3196868  PMID: 22022314
anger; emotion; brain–heart system; mental stress
5.  A novel desmocollin-2 mutation reveals insights into the molecular link between desmosomes and gap junctions 
Heart Rhythm  2011;8(5):711-718.
Cellular adhesion mediated by cardiac desmosomes is a prerequisite for proper electric propagation mediated by gap junctions in the myocardium. However, the molecular principles underlying this interdependence are not fully understood.
The purpose of this study was to determine potential causes of right ventricular conduction abnormalities in a patient with borderline diagnosis of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy.
To assess molecular changes, the patient's myocardial tissue was analyzed for altered desmosomal and gap junction (connexin43) protein levels and localization. In vitro functional studies were performed to characterize the consequences of the desmosomal mutations.
Loss of plakoglobin signal was evident at the cell junctions despite expression of the protein at control levels. Although the distribution of connexin43 was not altered, total protein levels were reduced and changes in phosphorylation were observed. The truncation mutant in desmocollin-2a is deficient in binding plakoglobin. Moreover, the ability of desmocollin-2a to directly interact with connexin43 was abolished by the mutation. No pathogenic potential of the desmoglein-2 missense change was identified.
The observed abnormalities in gap junction protein expression and phosphorylation, which precede an overt cardiac phenotype, likely are responsible for slow myocardial conduction in this patient. At the molecular level, altered binding properties of the desmocollin-2a mutant may contribute to the changes in connexin43. In particular, the newly identified interaction between the desmocollin-2a isoform and connexin43 provides novel insights into the molecular link between desmosomes and gap junctions.
PMCID: PMC3085091  PMID: 21220045
Cardiomyopathy; Conduction; Connexin43; Desmocollin-2; Desmoglein-2; Desmosome; Functional studies; Gap junction; Mutation; Plakoglobin; ARVC, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy; Cx43, connexin43; DAPI, 4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole; DSC2, desmocollin-2; DSG2, desmoglein-2; DSP, desmoplakin; GFP, green fluorescent protein; GST, glutathione-S-transferase; ICS, intracellular cadherin segment; PG, plakoglobin; PKP2, plakophilin-2; RV, right ventricle; YFP, yellow fluorescent protein
6.  Factors determining heterogeneity in coronary collateral development: A clinical perspective 
Experimental & Clinical Cardiology  2002;7(2-3):120-127.
The mechanisms responsible for collateral development have attracted considerable attention in cellular and molecular research because these vessels have the capacity to protect against myocardial infarction and reduce exercise-induced ischemia. This has led to a number of phase I trials employing angiogenic peptides, genes and cell transplantation. However, there are significant differences in the degree of collateral development among patients even with similar patterns of coronary disease. Understanding the factors responsible for this heterogeneity has important implications for the efficacy of future therapeutic strategies. Therefore, this review will examine these factors from the clinical perspective integrating the clinical evidence with recent molecular and cellular studies. The role of specific pharmacological agents and novel investigational strategies will be discussed.
PMCID: PMC2719174  PMID: 19649235
Angiogenesis; Coronary collaterals; Ischemia; Myocardial infarction

Results 1-6 (6)