Aims: Growth differentiation factor-15 (GDF-15) is a stress-responsive cytokine and is emerging as a biomarker of cardiac remodelling. Left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) provide unloading of the left ventricle, resulting in partial reverse remodelling. Our aim was to study GDF-15 in patients with a non-ischaemic dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) during LVAD support.
Methods and results: We analysed circulating GDF-15 in 30 patients before and 1, 3, and 6 months after LVAD implantation and before heart transplantation or explantation. In addition, mRNA and protein expression of GDF-15 were evaluated in myocardial tissue obtained prior to and after LVAD support. Circulating GDF-15 was significantly higher before LVAD implantation as compared with healthy controls (P < 0.001). After 1 month of mechanical support, GDF-15 levels were significantly decreased compared with pre-implantation levels (P < 0.001) and remained stable thereafter. Circulating GDF-15 was significantly correlated with kidney function and the severity of myocardial fibrosis. Interestingly, GDF-15 mRNA and protein expression in the myocardium were hardly detectable.
Conclusions: High circulating levels of GDF-15 in patients with end-stage non-ischaemic DCM correlate with myocardial fibrosis and kidney function and decline strongly after 1 month of mechanical unloading, remaining stable thereafter. However, cardiac mRNA and protein expression of GDF-15 are very low, suggesting that the heart is not an important source of GDF-15 production in these patients.