Author(s): Stphane N Hatem, Prashanthan Sanders
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most frequent cardiac arrhythmia in clinical practice. AF is often associated with profound functional and structural alterations of the atrial myocardium that compose its substrate. Recently, a relationship between the thickness of epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) and the incidence and severity of AF has been reported. Adipose tissue is a biologically active organ regulating the metabolism of neighbouring organs. It is also a major source of cytokines. In the heart, EAT is contiguous with the myocardium without fascia boundaries resulting in paracrine effects through the release of adipokines. Indeed, Activin A, which is produced in abundance by EAT during heart failure or diabetes, shows a marked fibrotic effect on the atrial myocardium. The infiltration of adipocytes into the atrial myocardium could also disorganize the depolarization wave front favouring micro re-entry circuits and local conduction block. Finally, EAT contains progenitor cells in abundance and therefore could be a source of myofibroblasts producing extracellular matrix. The study on the role played by adipose tissue in the pathogenesis of AF is just starting and is highly likely to uncover new biomarkers and therapeutic targets for AF.