Improved understanding of the pathophysiology of atrial fibrillation through the lens of discrete pathological pathways

Muhammad A Balouch, Matthew J Kolek, Dawood Darbar


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common disorder with a complex and incompletely understood pathophysiology. Genetic approaches to understanding the pathophysiology of AF have led to the identification of several biological pathways important in the pathogenesis of the arrhythmia. These include pathways important for cardiac development, generation and propagation of atrial electrical impulses, and atrial remodeling and fibrosis. While common and rare genetic variants in these pathways are associated with increased susceptibility to AF, they differ substantially among patients with lone versus typical AF. Furthermore, how these pathways converge to a final common clinical phenotype of AF is unclear and might also vary among different patient populations. Here, we review the contemporary knowledge of AF pathogenesis and discuss how derangement in cardiac development, ion channel dysfunction, and promotion of atrial fibrosis may contribute to this common and important clinical disorder. 

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Copyright (c) 2017 Muhammad A Balouch, Matthew J Kolek, Dawood Darbar

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