Cardioprotection and myocardial reperfusion: Pitfalls to clinical application

Richard S.Vander Heide, Charles Steenbergen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


With the advent of thrombolytic therapy and angioplasty, it has become possible to reduce myocardial infarct size through early reperfusion. Enormous effort has been expended to find therapies that can further reduce infarct size after early intervention. Animal studies have identified many cardioprotective pathways that have the potential to reduce infarct size if activated before the onset of ischemia. More recently, interventions effective at the onset of reperfusion have been described. Although basic research has identified many targets, most has been conducted in rodent models which may not be directly applicable to human disease and even promising agents have been disappointing in large-scale clinical trials. There are many potential explanations for this failure which is the subject of this review. Potential factors include (1) the variability inherent in the patient population, whereas animal studies usually use single sex homogeneous groups maintained on standard diets in carefully controlled environments; (2) the duration of ischemia is generally shorter in animal studies, resulting in potentially more salvageable myocardium than is often the case in patients; (3) that the animals are usually young without comorbidities, whereas the patient population is generally older and has significant comorbidities; (4) animals are not treated with medications a priori, whereas the patient population is often taking medications that may affect ischemic injury; and (5) animal studies may not involve thorough assessment of effects on organs other than the heart, whereas patients can experience adverse effects of treatment in other organs that can preclude clinical use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)464-477
Number of pages14
JournalCirculation research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2 2013


  • clinical trial
  • myocardial infarction
  • reperfusion injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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