Commentary on selected aspects of cardioprotection.
Three aspects of cardioprotection are discussed in this article. The first is myocyte death as a function of the duration and severity of ischemia in experimental acute myocardial infarction in the dog heart. The short period of time during which reperfusion with arterial blood will salvage myocytes is demonstrated along with data showing that this period diminishes significantly if collateral flow is very low or absent. The second topic is a discussion of potential mechanisms underlying postconditioning. It begins with a review of the changes that lead to irreversible injury during acute ischemia in the dog heart along with a discussion of the genesis of contraction band necrosis and no reflow when myocardium is salvaged by unrestricted reperfusion with arterial blood in order to provide a basis to discuss the potential mechanisms underlying postconditioning, a situation in which reflow is intermittent and restricted. Postconditioning is reported to achieve greater myocyte salvage than unrestricted reflow. Potential explanations for this beneficial effect include: first, sufficient sarcolemmal repair occurring during the intermittent reflow (reoxygenation) to prevent cell death by explosive cell swelling, and second, prevention of the opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore, thereby preventing mitochondrial failure and cell death in the reperfused tissue. Since there is no way available to identify and specifically study the myocytes that would have died if not protected by postconditioning, direct demonstration of mechanisms is difficult or impossible. Finally, the third topic in this commentary is an analysis of the obstacles faced by investigators using small rodent hearts to establish cardioprotective mechanisms. Such studies provide valid data but the relationship of the changes and the proposed mechanisms underlying these changes are not necessarily directly transferable to ischemic large animal hearts including the heart of man.
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