Three-dimensional architecture of the left ventricular myocardium



Concepts for ventricular function tend to assume that the majority of the myocardial cells are aligned with their long axes parallel to the epicardial ventricular surface. We aimed to validate the existence of aggregates of myocardial cells orientated with their long axis intruding obliquely between the ventricular epicardial and endocardial surfaces and to quantitate their amount and angulation. To compensate for the changing angle of the long axis of the myocytes relative to the equatorial plane of the ventricles with varying depths within the ventricular walls, the so-called helical angle, we used pairs of cylindrical knives of different diameters to punch semicircular slices from the left ventricular wall of pigs, the slices extending from the epicardium to the endocardium. The slices were pinned flat, fixed in formaldehyde, embedded in paraffin, sectioned, stained with azan or hematoxilin and eosin, and analyzed by a new semiautomatic procedure. We made use of new techniques in informatics to determine the number and angulation of the aggregates of myocardial cells cut in their long axis. The alignment of the myocytes cut longitudinally varied markedly between the epicardium and the endocardium. Populations of myocytes, arranged in strands, diverge by varying angles from the epicardial surface. When paired knives of decreasing diameter were used to cut the slices, the inclination of the diagonal created by the arrays increases, while the lengths of the array of cells cut axially decreases. The visualization of the size, shape, and alignment of the myocytic arrays at any side of the ventricular wall is determined by the radius of the knives used, the range of helical angles subtended by the alignment of the myocytes throughout the thickness of the wall, and their angulation relative to the epicardial surface. Far from the majority of the ventricular myocytes being aligned at angles more or less tangential to the epicardial lining, we found that three-fifths of the myocardial cells had their long axes diverging at angles between 7.5 and 37.5° from an alignment parallel to the epicardium. This arrangement, with the individual myocytes supported by connective tissue, might control the cyclic rearrangement of the myocardial fibers. This could serve as an important control of both ventricular mural thickening and intracavitary shape. Anat Rec Part A 288A:565–578, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.