Uncovering the Connection Between Exercise and Atrial Fibrillation
Death from cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the western world, with associated cardiac arrhythmias causing half of all cardiovascular deaths. The most common arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, whose prevalence is expected to double in the next 40 years.
Not only does atrial fibrillation severely impair heart function, it also contributes to heart disease, the major cause of stroke. Unfortunately, looking to exercise as a way of preventing the disease often isn’t the answer. Although it provides enormous cardiovascular benefit, excessive exercise can also induce atrial fibrillation.
Dr. Peter Backx, Canada Research Chair in Cardiovascular Biology, is aiming to tackle key questions surrounding the relationship between exercise and cardiovascular disease. Specifically, he and his research team are studying the molecular and genetic mechanisms behind how cardiovascular disease induces atrial fibrillation.
Backx’s work has already uncovered molecular mechanisms that bring on atrial fibrillation. Now, he and his team will build on this past work to develop strategies for new treatment and prevention of atrial fibrillation, with a particular focus on the influences of exercise. To do this, they will use mice and atrial myocytes (or muscle cells) derived from human pluripotent stem cells (also known as human embryonic stem cells).
The ultimate goal of Backx’s research is to shed light on the influence of exercise on cardiovascular disease and help identify promising new drug targets to treat it.