Key points: Sinoatrial node (SAN) function declines with age; however, not all individuals age at the same rate and health status can vary from fit to frail. Frailty was quantified in young and aged mice using a non-invasive frailty index so that the impacts of age and frailty on heart rate and SAN function could be assessed. SAN function was impaired in aged mice due to alterations in electrical conduction, changes in SAN action potential morphology and fibrosis in the SAN. Changes in SAN function, electrical conduction, action potential morphology and fibrosis were correlated with, and graded by, frailty. This study shows that mice of the same chronological age have quantifiable differences in health status that impact heart rate and SAN function and that these differences in health status can be identified using our frailty index.
Abstract: Sinoatrial node (SAN) dysfunction increases with age, although not all older adults are affected in the same way. This is because people age at different rates and individuals of the same chronological age vary in health status from very fit to very frail. Our objective was to determine the impacts of age and frailty on heart rate (HR) and SAN function using a new model of frailty in ageing mice. Frailty, which was quantified in young and aged mice using a frailty index (FI), was greater in aged vs. young mice. Intracardiac electrophysiology demonstrated that HR was reduced whereas SAN recovery time (SNRT) was prolonged in aged mice; however, both parameters showed heteroscedasticity suggesting differences in health status among mice of similar chronological age. Consistent with this, HR and corrected SNRT were correlated with, and graded by, FI score. Optical mapping of the SAN demonstrated that conduction velocity (CV) was reduced in aged hearts in association with reductions in diastolic depolarization (DD) slope and action potential (AP) duration. In agreement with in vivo results, SAN CV, DD slope and AP durations all correlated with FI score. Finally, SAN dysfunction in aged mice was associated with increased interstitial fibrosis and alterations in expression of matrix metalloproteinases, which also correlated with frailty. These findings demonstrate that age-related SAN dysfunction occurs in association with electrical and structural remodelling and that frailty is a critical determinant of health status of similarly aged animals that correlates with changes in HR and SAN function.
Keywords: aging; frailty; heart rate; sinoatrial node.
© 2016 The Authors. The Journal of Physiology © 2016 The Physiological Society.