Employing Extracellular Volume Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Measures of Myocardial Fibrosis to Foster Novel Therapeutics

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Abstract

Quantifying myocardial fibrosis (MF) with myocardial extracellular volume measures acquired during cardiovascular magnetic resonance promises to transform clinical care by advancing pathophysiologic understanding and fostering novel therapeutics. Extracellular volume quantifies MF by measuring the extracellular compartment depicted by the myocardial uptake of contrast relative to plasma. MF is a key domain of dysfunctional but viable myocardium among others (eg, microvascular dysfunction and cardiomyocyte/mitochondrial dysfunction). Although anatomically distinct, these domains may functionally interact. MF represents pathological remodeling in the heart associated with cardiac dysfunction and adverse outcomes likely mediated by interactions with the microvasculature and the cardiomyocyte. Reversal of MF improves key measures of cardiac dysfunction, so reversal of MF represents a likely mechanism for improved outcomes. Instead of characterizing the myocardium as homogenous tissue and using important yet still generic descriptors, such as thickness (hypertrophy) and function (diastolic or systolic), which lack mechanistic specificity, paradigms of cardiac disease have evolved to conceptualize myocardial disease and patient vulnerability based on the extent of disease involving its various compartments. Specifying myocardial compartmental involvement may then implicate cellular/molecular disease pathways for treatment and targeted pharmaceutical development and above all highlight the role of the cardiac-specific pathology in heart failure among myriad other changes in the heart and beyond. The cardiology community now requires phase 2 and 3 clinical trials to examine strategies for the regression/prevention of MF and eventually biomarkers to identify MF without reliance on cardiovascular magnetic resonance. It seems likely that efficacious antifibrotic therapy will improve outcomes, but definitive data are needed.

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