Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:808096. doi: 10.1155/2014/808096. Epub 2014 Aug 19.
Cardiac surgery patients are now more risky in terms of age, comorbidities, and the need for complex procedures. It brings about reperfusion injury, which leads to dysfunction and/or loss of part of the myocardium. These groups of patients have a higher incidence of postoperative complications and mortality. One way of augmenting intraoperative myocardial protection is the phenomenon of myocardial conditioning, elicited with brief nonlethal episodes of ischaemia-reperfusion. In addition, drugs are being tested that mimic ischaemic conditioning. Such cardioprotective techniques are mainly focused on reperfusion injury, a complex response of the organism to the restoration of coronary blood flow in ischaemic tissue, which can lead to cell death. Extensive research over the last three decades has revealed the basic mechanisms of reperfusion injury and myocardial conditioning, suggesting its therapeutic potential. But despite the enormous efforts that have been expended in preclinical studies, almost all cardioprotective therapies have failed in the third phase of clinical trials. One reason is that evolutionary young cellular mechanisms of protection against oxygen handling are not very robust. Ischaemic conditioning, which is among these, is also limited by this. At present, the prevailing belief is that such options of treatment exist, but their full employment will not occur until subquestions and methodological issues with the transfer into clinical practice have been resolved.
Brief periods of cardiac ischemia and reperfusion exert a protective effect against subsequent longer ischemic periods, a phenomenon coined ischemic preconditioning. Similarly, repeated brief episodes of coronary occlusion and reperfusion at the onset of reperfusion, called post-conditioning, dramatically reduce infarct sizes. Interestingly, both effects can be achieved by the administration of any volatile anesthetic. In fact, cardio-protection by volatile anesthetics is an older phenomenon than ischemic pre- or post-conditioning. Although the mechanism through which anesthetics can mimic ischemic pre- or post-conditioning is still unknown, adenosine generation and signaling are the most redundant triggers in ischemic pre- or post-conditioning. In fact, adenosine signaling has been implicated in isoflurane-mediated cardioprotection. Adenosine acts via four receptors designated as A1, A2a, A2b, and A3. Cardioprotection has been associated with all subtypes, although the role of each remains controversial. Much of the controversy stems from the abundance of receptor agonists and antagonists that are, in fact, capable of interacting with multiple receptor subtypes. Recently, more specific receptor agonists and new genetic animal models have become available paving way towards new discoveries. As such, the adenosine A2b receptor was shown to be the only one of the adenosine receptors whose cardiac expression is induced by ischemia in both mice and humans and whose function is implicated in ischemic pre- or post-conditioning. In the current review, we will focus on adenosine signaling in the context of anesthetic cardioprotection and will highlight new discoveries, which could lead to new therapeutic concepts to treat myocardial ischemia using anesthetic preconditioning.