Aging is associated with left ventricular hypertrophy, dilatation, and fibrosis of the heart. The Fischer 344/Brown Norway F1 (F344/BNF1) rat is recommended for age-related studies by the National Institutes on Aging because this hybrid rat lives longer and has a lower rate of pathological conditions than inbred rats. However, little is known about age-associated changes in cardiac and aortic function and structure in this model. This study evaluated age-related cardiac changes in male F344/BNF1 rats using ECHO, gross, and microscopic examinations. Rats aged 6-, 30-, and 36-mo were anesthetized and two-dimensional ECHO measurements, two-dimensional guided M-mode, Doppler M-mode, and other recordings from parasternal long- and short-axis views were obtained using a Phillips 5500 ECHO system with a 12 megahertz transducer. Hearts and aortas from sacrificed rats were evaluated grossly and microscopically. The ECHO studies revealed persistent cardiac arrhythmias (chiefly PVCs) in 72% (13/18) of 36-mo rats, 10% (1/10) of 30-mo rats, and none in 6-mo rats (0/16). Gross and microscopic studies showed left ventricular (LV) dilatation, borderline to mild hypertrophy, and areas of fibrosis that were common in 36-mo rats, less evident in 30-mo rats, and absent in 6-mo rats. Aging was associated with mild to moderate decreases of LV diastolic and systolic function. Thus, male F344/BN F1 rats demonstrated progressive age-related (a) decline in cardiac function (diastolic and systolic indices), (b) LV structural changes (chamber dimensions, volumes, and wall thicknesses), and (c) persistent arrhythmias. These changes are consistent with those in humans. The noninvasive ECHO technique offers a means to monitor serial age-related cardiac failure and therapeutic responses in the same rats over designated time intervals.
Walker, E. M., Nillas, M. S., Mangiarua, E. I., Cansino, S., Morrison, R. G., Perdue, R. R., ... & Blough, E. R. (2006). Age-associated changes in hearts of male Fischer 344/Brown Norway F1 rats. Ann Clin Lab Sci 36:427-438.