Adaptation to mechanical load determines shape and properties of heart and circulation: the CircAdapt model

Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2005 Apr;288(4):H1943-54. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00444.2004. Epub 2004 Nov 18.


With circulatory pathology, patient-specific simulation of hemodynamics is required to minimize invasiveness for diagnosis, treatment planning, and followup. We investigated the advantages of a smart combination of often already known hemodynamic principles. The CircAdapt model was designed to simulate beat-to-beat dynamics of the four-chamber heart with systemic and pulmonary circulation while incorporating a realistic relation between pressure-volume load and tissue mechanics and adaptation of tissues to mechanical load. Adaptation was modeled by rules, where a locally sensed signal results in a local action of the tissue. The applied rules were as follows: For blood vessel walls, 1) flow shear stress dilates the wall and 2) tensile stress thickens the wall; for myocardial tissue, 3) strain dilates the wall material, 4) larger maximum sarcomere length increases contractility, and 5) contractility increases wall mass. The circulation was composed of active and passive compliances and inertias. A realistic circulation developed by self-structuring through adaptation provided mean levels of systemic pressure and flow. Ability to simulate a wide variety of patient-specific circumstances was demonstrated by application of the same adaptation rules to the conditions of fetal circulation followed by a switch to the newborn circulation around birth. It was concluded that a few adaptation rules, directed to normalize mechanical load of the tissue, were sufficient to develop and maintain a realistic circulation automatically. Adaptation rules appear to be the key to reduce dramatically the number of input parameters for simulating circulation dynamics. The model may be used to simulate circulation pathology and to predict effects of treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Coronary Circulation / physiology*
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Cardiovascular*
  • Pulmonary Circulation / physiology
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology