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The online version of this article (https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-018-1480-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Preclinical and proof-of-concept studies suggest a cardioprotective effect of remote ischemic preconditioning (RIPC). However, two major clinical trials (ERICCA and RIPHeart) failed to show cardioprotection by RIPC. Aging and gender might be confounding factors of RIPC affecting the inter-organ signalling. Theoretically, confounding factors might prevent the protective potency of RIPC by interfering with cardiac signalling pathways, i.e. at the heart, and/or by affecting the release of humoral factor(s) from the remote organ, e.g. from the upper limb. This study investigated the effect of age and sex on the release of cardioprotective humoral factor(s) after RIPC in humans.
Blood samples were taken from young and aged, male and female volunteers before (control) and after RIPC (RIPC). To investigate the protective potency of the different plasma groups obtained from the human volunteers, isolated perfused hearts of young rats were used as bioassay. For this, hearts were perfused with the volunteer plasma (0.5% of coronary flow) before hearts underwent global ischemia and reperfusion. In addition, to characterize the protective potency of humoral factor(s) after RIPC to initiate protection not only in young but also aged hearts, plasma from young male volunteers were transferred to isolated hearts of aged rats. At the end of the experimental protocol, infarct sizes were determined by TTC-staining (expressed as % of left ventricle).
RIPC plasma of young male volunteers reduced infarct size in young rat hearts from 47 ± 5 to 31 ± 10% (p = 0.02). In contrast, RIPC plasma of aged male volunteers had no protective effect. Infarct size after application of control plasma of young female volunteers was 33 ± 10%, and female RIPC plasma did not lead to an infarct size reduction. RIPC plasma of old female initiated no cardioprotection. RIPC plasma of young male volunteers reduced infarct size in isolated hearts from aged rats (41 ± 5% vs. 51 ± 5%; p < 0.001).
The release of humoral factor(s) into the blood after RIPC in humans is affected by both age and sex. In addition, these blood borne factor(s) are capable to initiate cardioprotection within the aged heart.