Heart failure is a progressive and disabling disease. The incidence of heart failure is also on the rise, particularly in the elderly of industrialized societies. This is in part due to an increased ageing population, whom initially benefits from improved, and life-extending cardiovascular therapy, yet ultimately succumb to myocardial failure. A major cause of heart failure is ischemia secondary to the sequence of events that is dyslipidemia, atherosclerosis, and myocardial infarction. In the case of heart failure postmyocardial infarction, ischemia can lead to myocardial cell death by both necrosis and apoptosis. The extent of myocyte death postinfarction is associated with adverse cardiac remodeling that can contribute to progressive heart chamber dilation, ventricular wall thinning, and the onset of loss of cardiac function. In cardiomyocytes, recent studies indicate that myocardial ischemic injury activates the unfolded protein stress response (UPR) and this is associated with increased apoptosis. This paper focuses on the intersection of ischemia, the UPR, and cell death in cardiomyocytes. Targeting of the myocardial UPR may prove to be a viable target for the prevention of myocyte cell loss and the progression of heart failure due to ischemic injury.
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