RATIONALE: The capacity for cardiomyocyte regeneration in the healthy adult human heart is fundamentally relevant for both myocardial homeostasis and cardiomyopathy therapeutics. However, estimates of cardiomyocyte turnover rates conflict greatly, with a study employing C14 pulse-chase methodology concluding 1% annual turnover in youth declining to 0.5% with aging and another using cell population dynamics indicating substantial, age-increasing turnover (4% increasing to 20%).
OBJECTIVE: Create a hybrid mathematical model to critically examine rates of cardiomyocyte turnover derived from alternative methodologies.
METHODS AND RESULTS: Examined in isolation, the cell population analysis exhibited severe sensitivity to a stem cell expansion exponent (20% variation causing 2-fold turnover change) and apoptosis rate. Similarly, the pulse-chase model was acutely sensitive to assumptions of instantaneous incorporation of atmospheric C14 into the body (4-fold impact on turnover in young subjects) while numerical restrictions precluded otherwise viable solutions. Incorporating considerations of primary variable sensitivity and controversial model assumptions, an unbiased numerical solver identified a scenario of significant, age-increasing turnover (4-6% increasing to 15-22% with age) that was compatible with data from both studies, provided that successive generations of cardiomyocytes experienced higher attrition rates than predecessors.
CONCLUSIONS: Assignment of histologically-observed stem/progenitor cells into discrete regenerative phenotypes in the cell population model strongly influenced turnover dynamics without being directly testable. Alternatively, C14 trafficking assumptions and restrictive models in the pulse-chase model artificially eliminated high-turnover solutions. Nevertheless, discrepancies among recent cell turnover estimates can be explained and reconciled. The hybrid mathematical model provided herein permits further examination of these and forthcoming datasets.
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