Computational modeling of electrophysiology and pharmacotherapy of atrial fibrillation: Recent advances and future challenges

Márcia R.S.S. Vagos, Ilsbeth G.M. van Herck, Joakim Sundnes, Hermenegild J. Arevalo, Andrew G. Edwards, Jussi T. Koivumäki

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The pathophysiology of atrial fibrillation (AF) is broad, with components related to the unique and diverse cellular electrophysiology of atrial myocytes, structural complexity, and heterogeneity of atrial tissue, and pronounced disease-associated remodeling of both cells and tissue. A major challenge for rational design of AF therapy, particularly pharmacotherapy, is integrating these multiscale characteristics to identify approaches that are both efficacious and independent of ventricular contraindications. Computational modeling has long been touted as a basis for achieving such integration in a rapid, economical, and scalable manner. However, computational pipelines for AF-specific drug screening are in their infancy, and while the field is progressing quite rapidly, major challenges remain before computational approaches can fill the role of workhorse in rational design of AF pharmacotherapies. In this review, we briefly detail the unique aspects of AF pathophysiology that determine requirements for compounds targeting AF rhythm control, with emphasis on delimiting mechanisms that promote AF triggers from those providing substrate or supporting reentry. We then describe modeling approaches that have been used to assess the outcomes of drugs acting on established AF targets, as well as on novel promising targets including the ultra-rapidly activating delayed rectifier potassium current, the acetylcholine-activated potassium current and the small conductance calcium-activated potassium channel. Finally, we describe how heterogeneity and variability are being incorporated into AF-specific models, and how these approaches are yielding novel insights into the basic physiology of disease, as well as aiding identification of the important molecular players in the complex AF etiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1221
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Issue numberSEP
StatePublished - Sep 4 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Computational modeling
  • Drug therapies
  • In silico drug screening
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacodynamics
  • Pharmacology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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