Diastolic dysfunction precedes hypoxia-induced mortality in dystrophic mice

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Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a progressive striated muscle disease that is characterized by skeletal muscle weakness with progressive respiratory and cardiac failure. Together respiratory and cardiac disease account for the majority of mortality in the DMD patient population. However, little is known regarding the effects of respiratory dysfunction on the dystrophic heart. The studies described here examine the effects of acute hypoxia on cardiac function. These studies demonstrate, for the first time, that a mouse model of DMD displays significant mortality following acute exposure to hypoxia. This mortality is characterized by a steady decline in systolic function. Retrospective analysis reveals that significant decreases in diastolic dysfunction, especially in the right ventricle, precede the decline in systolic pressure. The initial hemodynamic response to acute hypoxia in the mouse is similar to that observed in larger species, with significant increases in right ventricular afterload and decreases in left ventricular preload being observed. Significant increases in heart rate and contractility suggest hypoxia-induced activation of the sympathetic nervous system. These studies provide evidence that while hypoxia presents significant hemodynamic challenges to the dystrophic right ventricle, global cardiac dysfunction precedes hypoxia-induced mortality in the dystrophic heart. These findings are clinically relevant as the respiratory insufficiency evident in patients with DMD results in significant bouts of hypoxia. The results of these studies indicate that hypoxia may contribute to the acceleration of the heart disease in DMD patients. Importantly, hypoxia can be avoided through the use of ventilatory support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12513
JournalPhysiological Reports
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2015


  • Duchenne muscular dystrophy
  • Dystrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Dystrophin
  • Hypoxia
  • Right ventricle

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