Abstract To determine the effects of chronic anemia on the functional and structural characteristics of the heart, 1-month-old male rats were fed a diet deficient in iron and copper, which led to a hemoglobin concentration of 4.63 g/dl, for 8 weeks. At sacrifice, under fentanyl citrate and droperidol anesthesia, systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial blood pressures were decreased, whereas differential pressure was increased. Left ventricular systolic pressure and the ventricular rate of pressure rise (mmHg/s) were reduced by 9% and 14%, respectively. Moreover, developed peak systolic ventricular pressure and maximal dP/dt diminished 14% and 12%. After perfusion fixation of the coronary vasculature and the myocardium, at a left ventricular intracavitary pressure equal to the in vivo measured end diastolic pressure, a 10% thickening of the left ventricular wall was measured in association with a 13% increase in the equatorial cavitary diameter and a 44% augmentation in ventricular mass. The 52% hypertrophy of the right ventricle was characterized by an 11% thicker wall and a 37% larger ventricular area. The 33% expansion in the aggregate myocyte volume of the left ventricle was found to be due to a 14% myocyte cellular hypertrophy and a 17% myocyte cellular hyperplasia. These cellular parameters were calculated from the estimation of the number of myocyte nuclei per unit volume of myocardium in situ and the evaluation of the distribution of nuclei per cell in enzymatically dissociated myocytes. Myocyte cellular hyperplasia provoked a 9% increase in the absolute number of cells across the left ventricular wall. In contrast, myocyte cellular hypertrophy (42%) was responsible for the increase in myocyte volume of the right ventricle. The proliferative response of left ventricular myocytes was not capable of restoring diastolic cell stress, which was enhanced by the changes in ventricular anatomy with anemia. In conclusion, chronic anemia induced an unbalanced load on the left ventricle, which evoked a hyperplastic reaction of preexisting myocytes, in an attempt to normalize diastolic wall and myocyte stress.
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