A model of electrical conduction in cardiac tissue including fibroblasts

Frank B Sachse, A P Moreno, G Seemann, J A Abildskov
Annals of Biomedical Engineering 2009, 37 (5): 874-89
Fibroblasts are abundant in cardiac tissue. Experimental studies suggested that fibroblasts are electrically coupled to myocytes and this coupling can impact cardiac electrophysiology. In this work, we present a novel approach for mathematical modeling of electrical conduction in cardiac tissue composed of myocytes, fibroblasts, and the extracellular space. The model is an extension of established cardiac bidomain models, which include a description of intra-myocyte and extracellular conductivities, currents and potentials in addition to transmembrane voltages of myocytes. Our extension added a description of fibroblasts, which are electrically coupled with each other and with myocytes. We applied the extended model in exemplary computational simulations of plane waves and conduction in a thin tissue slice assuming an isotropic conductivity of the intra-fibroblast domain. In simulations of plane waves, increased myocyte-fibroblast coupling and fibroblast-myocyte ratio reduced peak voltage and maximal upstroke velocity of myocytes as well as amplitudes and maximal downstroke velocity of extracellular potentials. Simulations with the thin tissue slice showed that inter-fibroblast coupling affected rather transversal than longitudinal conduction velocity. Our results suggest that fibroblast coupling becomes relevant for small intra-myocyte and/or large intra-fibroblast conductivity. In summary, the study demonstrated the feasibility of the extended bidomain model and supports the hypothesis that fibroblasts contribute to cardiac electrophysiology in various manners.

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