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Abdallah Al-Mohammad, David G Partridge, Graham Fent, Oliver Watson, Nigel T Lewis, Robert F Storey, Michael Makris, and Timothy Ja Chico

Since the first description of COVID-19 in December 2019, more than 47,000 publications have described its virology, clinical course, management, treatment and prevention. Most physicians are now encountering, or will soon encounter, patients with COVID-19 and must attempt to simultaneously assimilate this avalanche of information while managing an entirely novel disease with few guiding precedents.

It is increasingly clear that, although primarily a respiratory illness, COVID-19 is associated with cardiovascular complications. However, the true incidence of direct cardiac complications remains unclear, as all complications thus far reported can also occur in patients without COVID-19.

In this review, we briefly summarise and critically appraise the data on cardiac complications associated with COVID-19 and describe some cases from our own experience. We identify unresolved questions and highlight the many uncertainties in this developing field.

Open access

Kor H Hutting, Wouter B aan de Stegge, Rombout R Kruse, Jeff G van Baal, Sicco A Bus, and Jaap J van Netten

Monitoring of diabetic foot infections is largely based on clinical assessment, which is limited by moderate reliability. We conducted a prospective study to explore monitoring of thermal asymmetry (difference between mean plantar temperature of the affected and unaffected foot) for the assessment of severity of diabetic foot infections. In patients with moderate or severe diabetic foot infections (International Working Group on the Diabetic Foot infection-grades 3 or 4) we measured thermal asymmetry with an advanced infrared thermography setup during the first 4–5 days of in-hospital treatment, in addition to clinical assessments and tests of serum inflammatory markers (white blood cell counts and C-reactive protein levels). We assessed the change in thermal asymmetry from baseline to final assessment, and investigated its association with infection-grades and serum inflammatory markers. In seven included patients, thermal asymmetry decreased from median 1.8°C (range: −0.6 to 8.4) at baseline to 1.5°C (range: −0.1 to 5.1) at final assessment (P = 0.515). In three patients who improved to infection-grade 2, thermal asymmetry at baseline (median 1.6°C (range: −0.6 to 1.6)) and final assessment (1.5°C (range: 0.4 to 5.1)) remained similar (P = 0.302). In four patients who did not improve to infection-grade 2, thermal asymmetry decreased from median 4.3°C (range: 1.8 to 8.4) to 1.9°C (range: −0.1 to 4.4; P = 0.221). No correlations were found between thermal asymmetry and infection-grades (r = −0.347; P = 0.445), CRP-levels (r = 0.321; P = 0.482) or WBC (r = −0.250; P = 0.589) during the first 4–5 days of hospitalization. Based on these explorative findings we suggest that infrared thermography is of no value for monitoring diabetic foot infections during in-hospital treatment.

Open access

Karthik Amudhala Hemanthakumar and Riikka Kivelä

Endothelial cells (ECs) line the inner surface of all blood and lymphatic vessels throughout the body, making endothelium one of the largest tissues. In addition to its transport function, endothelium is now appreciated as a dynamic organ actively participating in angiogenesis, permeability and vascular tone regulation, as well as in the development and regeneration of tissues. The identification of endothelial-derived secreted factors, angiocrines, has revealed non-angiogenic mechanisms of endothelial cells in both physiological and pathological tissue remodeling. In the heart, ECs play a variety of important roles during cardiac development as well as in growth, homeostasis and regeneration of the adult heart. To date, several angiocrines affecting cardiomyocyte growth in response to physiological or pathological stimuli have been identified. In this review, we discuss the effects of angiogenesis and EC-mediated signaling in the regulation of cardiac hypertrophy. Identification of the molecular and metabolic signals from ECs during physiological and pathological cardiac growth could provide novel therapeutic targets to treat heart failure, as endothelium is emerging as one of the potential target organs in cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Open access

Catarina G Fonseca, Pedro Barbacena, and Claudio A Franco

The vascular system is a hierarchically organized network of blood vessels that play crucial roles in embryogenesis, homeostasis and disease. Blood vessels are built by endothelial cells – the cells lining the interior of blood vessels – through a process named vascular morphogenesis. Endothelial cells react to different biomechanical signals in their environment by adjusting their behavior to: (1) invade, proliferate and fuse to form new vessels (angiogenesis); (2) remodel, regress and establish a hierarchy in the network (patterning); and (3) maintain network stability (quiescence). Each step involves the coordination of endothelial cell differentiation, proliferation, polarity, migration, rearrangements and shape changes to ensure network integrity and an efficient barrier between blood and tissues. In this review, we highlighted the relevance and the mechanisms involving endothelial cell migration during different steps of vascular morphogenesis. We further present evidence on how impaired endothelial cell dynamics can contribute to pathology.

Open access

Cristina Caffarra Malvezzi, Aderville Cabassi, and Michele Miragoli

The role of mitochondria in cardiac tissue is of utmost importance due to the dynamic nature of the heart and its energetic demands, necessary to assure its proper beating function. Recently, other important mitochondrial roles have been discovered, namely its contribution to intracellular calcium handling in normal and pathological myocardium. Novel investigations support the fact that during the progression toward heart failure, mitochondrial calcium machinery is compromised due to its morphological, structural and biochemical modifications resulting in facilitated arrhythmogenesis and heart failure development. The interaction between mitochondria and sarcomere directly affect cardiomyocyte excitation-contraction and is also involved in mechano-transduction through the cytoskeletal proteins that tether together the mitochondria and the sarcoplasmic reticulum. The focus of this review is to briefly elucidate the role of mitochondria as (mechano) sensors in the heart.

Open access

Manisha S Patil, Siân P Cartland, and Mary M Kavurma

The extracellular matrix (ECM) is an essential part of the vasculature, not only providing structural support to the blood vessel wall, but also in its ability to interact with cells to regulate cell phenotype and function including proliferation, migration, differentiation and death – processes important in vascular remodelling. Increasing evidence implicates TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) signalling in the modulation of vascular cell function and remodelling under normal and pathological conditions such as in atherosclerosis. TRAIL can also stimulate synthesis of multiple ECM components within blood vessels. This review explores the relationship between TRAIL signals, the ECM, and its implications in vessel remodelling in cardiovascular disease.

Open access

Sarah Costantino, Shafeeq A Mohammed, Samuele Ambrosini, and Francesco Paneni

Our genetic background provides limited information on individual risk of developing vascular complications overtime. New biological layers, namely epigenetic modifications, are now emerging as potent regulators of gene expression thus leading to altered transcriptional programs and vascular disease phenotypes. Such epigenetic modifications, defined as changes to the genome that do not involve changes in DNA sequence, are generally induced by environmental factors and poor lifestyle habits. Of note, adverse epigenetic signals acquired during life can be transmitted to the offspring thus leading to premature alterations of the epigenetic and transcriptional landscape eventually leading to early endothelial dysfunction and vascular senescence. Modifications of the epigenome play a pivotal role in the pathophysiology of cardiometabolic disturbances such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. In these patients, changes of DNA methylation and chromatin structure contribute to alter pathways regulating insulin sensitivity, glucose homeostasis, adipogenesis and vascular function. In this perspective, unveiling the ‘epigenetic landscape’ in cardiometabolic patients may help to identify new players implicated in obesity and diabetes-related vascular dysfunction and may pave the way for personalized therapies in this setting. In the present review, we discuss current knowledge of the epigenetic routes implicated in vascular damage and cardiovascular disease in patients with metabolic alterations.

Open access

Nektarios Barabutis

Endothelial barrier dysfunction is the hallmark of inflammatory lung disease, including Acute Lung Injury and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. The purpose of the present editorial is to emphasize on recent advances in the corresponding field, as it relates to P53. This tumor suppressor protein has been shown to enhance the vascular barrier integrity via distinct molecular pathways. Further, it mediates the beneficial effects of heat shock protein 90 inhibitors and growth hormone releasing hormone antagonists in the lung microvasculature.