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Ischaemic conditioning: are we there yet?
  1. Heerajnarain Bulluck1,
  2. Derek J Hausenloy1,2
  1. 1The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute, University College London, London, UK
  2. 2Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Program, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore, Singapore
  1. Correspondence to Dr Derek Hausenloy, The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute, Institute of Cardiovascular Science, NIHR University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre, University College London Hospital & Medical School, 67 Chenies Mews, London WC1E 6HX, UK; d.hausenloy{at}

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Learning objectives

  1. To recognise that acute myocardial ischaemia/reperfusion injury is a neglected therapeutic target for cardioprotection that is responsible for the ongoing morbidity and mortality of patients with ischaemic heart disease.

  2. To be aware that cardiac bypass surgery and ST segment elevation myocardial infarction are the major clinical settings in which the heart is subjected to acute ischaemia/reperfusion injury.

  3. To be familiar with the concept of ‘ischaemic conditioning’, in which the heart is protected against acute ischaemia/reperfusion injury by subjecting it to cycles of brief ischaemia and reperfusion, a therapeutic strategy which has been demonstrated in proof-of-concept studies to be beneficial in patients with ischaemic heart disease.

Introduction—the need for cardioprotection

Ischaemic heart disease (IHD) is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Despite current therapies, patients still experience significant morbidity and mortality when undergoing cardiac bypass surgery or when presenting with an ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). This is partly attributed to the detrimental effects of acute ischaemia/reperfusion injury (IRI) on the heart, which in combination mediate cardiomyocyte death, resulting in impaired LV systolic function and increased risk of heart failure. Although a number of strategies exist for reducing the ischaemic component of acute IRI injury in cardiac bypass surgery (such as cardioplegia and hypothermia) and STEMI (such as prompt reperfusion with primary percutaneous intervention—PPCI), paradoxically, reperfusing previously ischaemic myocardium leads to further cardiomyocyte death—termed ‘myocardial reperfusion injury’ and for which there is currently no effective therapy. Therefore, novel therapeutic interventions are required to protect the heart from acute IRI in these clinical settings in order to improve clinical outcomes. In this regard, ‘ischaemic conditioning’, in which the heart is rendered tolerant to acute IRI by subjecting it to cycles of brief ischaemia and reperfusion, provides an endogenous form of cardioprotection. In this article, we review the role for ischaemic conditioning as a …

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  • Contributors HB and DJH conceived and drafted and critically reviewed the manuscript.

  • Funding DJH is funded by the British Heart Foundation (grant number FS/10/039/28270), the Rosetrees Trust, and is supported by the National Institute for Health Research University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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