ABSTRACTThe University of ManchesterGillian QuigleySeptember 2013PhD in Cardiovascular MedicineInflammation of the Heart in Heart DiseaseHeart failure patients have dysfunction of the cardiac conduction system that contributes to a high burden of arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation and sudden cardiac death. Heart failure has been associated with the inflammatory response, but it is unknown if inflammation is playing a role in the remodelling of the cardiac conduction system in heart failure. Inflammation has been shown to be present in the myocardium from failing hearts and it is known to have detrimental effects on cardiac function, inducing fibrosis, remodelling of ion channels and even arrhythmias. However, the effect of inflammation on the cardiac conduction system has not been investigated. The aims of this study were to determine if there is an increase of pro-inflammatory cytokines and inflammatory cells in the cardiac conduction system in heart failure. In addition, to identify if there is possible inflammation-associated fibrosis and apoptosis in the cardiac conduction system in heart failure.To test these aims, three models of heart failure were used: a rat model of pulmonary arterial hypertension, a rabbit model of congestive heart failure and a rat model of myocardial infarction. In the rat model of pulmonary arterial hypertension there was a bradycardia, a prolongation of the QT interval, and an increase in the atrioventricular and ventricular refractory periods, suggesting electrical remodelling in these animals. The rats with pulmonary arterial hypertension displayed an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukins 1β and TGFβ in the right side of the heart, including the sinoatrial node and right Purkinje fibres of the cardiac conduction system. In addition, in these areas, there was an increase in components of the extracellular matrix, including fibronectin, collagen I and vimentin. Histology revealed regions of non-myocyte nuclei, only in the right ventricle of the rats with pulmonary arterial hypertension. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated patches of CD68 and vimentin expression (markers for macrophages and fibroblasts, respectively) in the right side of the heart in these animals. TUNEL staining also revealed an increase in apoptosis in the right side of the heart. In the rabbit model of congestive heart failure, the region most affected by inflammation was the right atrium, while few changes were measured in the ventricles or cardiac conduction system. Although these results are surprising, it is suggested that the atria could be more sensitive to the physical stretch produced in this model. In the rat model of myocardial infarction, there were regions of non-myocyte nuclei in the border zone. This region also had increases in pro-inflammatory and fibrosis markers.In conclusion, this work has presented the novel finding that there can be inflammation in the cardiac conduction system in heart failure. This could be contributing to the arrhythmias seen in heart failure patients. This could possibly lead the way to anti-inflammatories as a possible novel therapeutic for heart failure patients.