Distinguishing mechanisms for alternans in cardiac cells using constant-diastolic-interval pacing

TitleDistinguishing mechanisms for alternans in cardiac cells using constant-diastolic-interval pacing
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsCherry, Elizabeth M.
JournalChaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science

Alternans, a proarrhythmic dynamical state in which cardiac action potentials alternate between long and short durations despite a constant pacing period, traditionally has been explained at the cellular level using nonlinear dynamics principles under the assumption that the action potential duration (APD) is determined solely by the time elapsed since the end of the previous action potential, called the diastolic interval (DI). In this scenario, APDs at a steady state should be the same provided that the preceding DIs are the same. Nevertheless, experiments attempting to eliminate alternans by dynamically adjusting the timing of pacing stimuli to keep the DI constant showed that alternans persisted, contradicting the traditional theory. It is now widely known that alternans also can arise from a different mechanism associated with intracellular calcium cycling. Our goal is to determine whether intracellular calcium dynamics can explain the experimental findings regarding the persistence of alternans despite a constant DI. For this, we use mathematical models capable of producing alternans through both voltage- and calcium-mediated mechanisms. We show that for voltage-driven alternans, action potentials elicited from a constant-DI protocol are always the same. However, in the case of calcium-driven alternans, the constant-DI protocol can result in alternans. Reducing the strength of the calcium instability progressively reduces and finally eliminates constant-DI alternans. Our findings suggest that screening for the presence of alternans using a constant-DI protocol has the potential for differentiating between voltage-driven and calcium-driven alternans.