The development of effective and safe therapies for scar-related ventricular tachycardias requires a detailed understanding of the mechanisms underlying the conduction block that initiates electrical re-entries associated with these arrhythmias. Conduction block has been often associated with electrophysiological changes that prolong action potential duration (APD) within the border zone (BZ) of chronically infarcted hearts. However, experimental evidence suggests that remodeling processes promoting conduction slowing as opposed to APD prolongation mark the chronic phase. In this context, the substrate for the initial block at the mouth of an isthmus/diastolic channel leading to ventricular tachycardia is unclear. The goal of this study was to determine whether electrophysiological parameters associated with conduction slowing can cause block and re-entry in the BZ. In silico experiments were conducted on two-dimensional idealized infarct tissue as well as on a cohort of postinfarction porcine left ventricular models constructed from ex vivo magnetic resonance imaging scans. Functional conduction slowing in the BZ was modeled by reducing sodium current density, whereas structural conduction slowing was represented by decreasing tissue conductivity and including fibrosis. The arrhythmogenic potential of APD prolongation was also tested as a basis for comparison. Within all models, the combination of reduced sodium current with structural remodeling more often degenerated into re-entry and, if so, was more likely to be sustained for more cycles. Although re-entries were also detected in experiments with prolonged APD, they were often not sustained because of the subsequent block caused by long-lasting repolarization. Functional and structural conditions associated with slow conduction rather than APD prolongation form a potent substrate for arrhythmogenesis at the isthmus/BZ of chronically infarcted hearts. Reduced excitability led to block while slow conduction shortened the wavelength of propagation, facilitating the sustenance of re-entries. These findings provide important insights for models of patient-specific risk stratification and therapy planning.
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