Mechanistic insight into spontaneous transition from cellular alternans to arrhythmia—A simulation study

by Wei Wang, Shanzhuo Zhang, Haibo Ni, Clifford J. Garratt, Mark R. Boyett, Jules C. Hancox, Henggui Zhang

Cardiac electrical alternans (CEA), manifested as T-wave alternans in ECG, is a clinical biomarker for predicting cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death. However, the mechanism underlying the spontaneous transition from CEA to arrhythmias remains incompletely elucidated. In this study, multiscale rabbit ventricular models were used to study the transition and a potential role of INa in perpetuating such a transition. It was shown CEA evolved into either concordant or discordant action potential (AP) conduction alternans in a homogeneous one-dimensional tissue model, depending on tissue AP duration and conduction velocity (CV) restitution properties. Discordant alternans was able to cause conduction failure in the model, which was promoted by impaired sodium channel with either a reduced or increased channel current. In a two-dimensional homogeneous tissue model, a combined effect of rate- and curvature-dependent CV broke-up alternating wavefronts at localised points, facilitating a spontaneous transition from CEA to re-entry. Tissue inhomogeneity or anisotropy further promoted break-up of re-entry, leading to multiple wavelets. Similar observations have also been seen in human atrial cellular and tissue models. In conclusion, our results identify a mechanism by which CEA spontaneously evolves into re-entry without a requirement for premature ventricular complexes or pre-existing tissue heterogeneities, and demonstrated the important pro-arrhythmic role of impaired sodium channel activity. These findings are model-independent and have potential human relevance.

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