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Vol. 65 (2001) No. 11 P 965-968



Clinical Investigation

In failing hearts, cardiomyocytes degenerate and interstitial fibrosis, which indicates cardiomyocyte loss, becomes more prominent in the myocardium. However, the precise mechanism of cardiomyocyte degeneration that leads to cell death is still unclear, although it is presumed that lysosomal function and autophagy play an important role because lysosomal activity increases under stress such as hypoxia. Myocardium that had been resected during partial left ventriculectomy performed in patients with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) was examined. Under light microscopy, some cardiomyocytes had a marked scarcity of myofibrils and had prominent cytoplasmic vacuolization. Atrophic and degenerated cardiomyocytes were often observed adjacent to replacement fibrotic tissue. Immunohistochemistry showed positivity for lysosome-associated membrane protein and a lysosomal catheptic enzyme in vacuoles of various sizes in the cardiomyocytes and these lysosomal markers were markedly increased in atrophic and degenerated cardiomyocytes. Electron microscopy revealed that degenerated cardiomyocytes had many vacuoles containing intracellular organelles, such as mitochondria, and were considered to be autophagic vacuoles. In DCM hearts, autophagy appeared to be associated not only with degradation of damaged intracellular organelles but also with progressive destruction of cardiomyocytes. It is possible that autophagic degeneration is one of the mechanisms of myocardial cell death. (Jpn Circ J 2001; 65: 965 - 968)


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