Chronic atrial fibrillation (AF) is a complex disease with underlying changes in electrophysiology, calcium signaling and the structure of atrial myocytes. How these individual remodeling targets and their emergent interactions contribute to cell physiology in chronic AF is not well understood. To approach this problem, we performed in silico experiments in a computational model of the human atrial myocyte. The remodeled function of cellular components was based on a broad literature review of in vitro findings in chronic AF, and these were integrated into the model to define a cohort of virtual cells. Simulation results indicate that while the altered function of calcium and potassium ion channels alone causes a pronounced decrease in action potential duration, remodeling of intracellular calcium handling also has a substantial impact on the chronic AF phenotype. We additionally found that the reduction in amplitude of the calcium transient in chronic AF as compared to normal sinus rhythm is primarily due to the remodeling of calcium channel function, calcium handling and cellular geometry. Finally, we found that decreased electrical resistance of the membrane together with remodeled calcium handling synergistically decreased cellular excitability and the subsequent inducibility of repolarization abnormalities in the human atrial myocyte in chronic AF. We conclude that the presented results highlight the complexity of both intrinsic cellular interactions and emergent properties of human atrial myocytes in chronic AF. Therefore, reversing remodeling for a single remodeled component does little to restore the normal sinus rhythm phenotype. These findings may have important implications for developing novel therapeutic approaches for chronic AF.
Mathematical modeling of cardiac electrophysiology is an insightful method to investigate the underlying mechanisms responsible for arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation. In past years, five models of human atrial electrophysiology with different formulations of ionic currents, and consequently diverging properties, have been published. The aim of this work is to give an overview of strengths and weaknesses of these models depending on the purpose and the general requirements of simulations. Therefore, these models were systematically benchmarked with respect to general mathematical properties and their ability to reproduce certain electrophysiological phenomena, such as action potential alternans. To assess the models ability to replicate modified properties of human myocytes and tissue in cardiac disease, electrical remodeling in chronic atrial fibrillation was chosen as test case. The healthy and remodeled model variants were compared with experimental results in single-cell, 1D and 2D tissue simulations to investigate action potential and restitution properties, as well as the initiation of reentrant circuits.
Ongoing developments in cardiac modelling have resulted, in particular, in the development of advanced and increasingly complex computational frameworks for simulating cardiac tissue electrophysiology. The goal of these simulations is often to represent the detailed physiology and pathologies of the heart using codes that exploit the computational potential of high-performance computing architectures. These developments have rapidly progressed the simulation capacity of cardiac virtual physiological human style models; however, they have also made it increasingly challenging to verify that a given code provides a faithful representation of the purported governing equations and corresponding solution techniques. This study provides the first cardiac tissue electrophysiology simulation benchmark to allow these codes to be verified. The benchmark was successfully evaluated on 11 simulation platforms to generate a consensus gold-standard converged solution. The benchmark definition in combination with the gold-standard solution can now be used to verify new simulation codes and numerical methods in the future.