Fibrosing Cardiomyopathy

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Fibrosing cardiomyopathy (replacement of the heart muscle by fibrous tissue) is a common cause of heart failure and/or sudden death in middle-aged or elderly great apes, especially in males. There is apparently no direct counterpart of this disease in humans. This cause of heart failure or heart attack should not be confused with the common form of heart disease in humans, caused by atherosclerotic vascular disease, which blocks the blood supply to the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood.

There are two types of myocardial fibrosis (replacement or scarring and reactive or interstitial myocardial fibrosis). Interstitial myocardial fibrosis is the type most commonly documented in chimpanzees and is associated with pressure or volume overload.

The use of diagnostics like electrocardiogram, blood pressure and echocardiography are being evaluated as tools to diagnose myocardial fibrosis antemortem in great apes. Serum biomarkers are used to diagnose cardiac disease in humans. Several of these biomarkers are currently being evaluated as a potential tool to predict heart disease in chimpanzees. Some of the biomarkers being evaluated include CRP, MMP, cardiac troponin and BNP. It is currently unclear how predictive these biomarkers will be in chimpanzees.

There are two mysteries to be solved. Why do humans not often suffer from the Interstitial myocardial fibrosis so common in our closest evolutionary cousins? Conversely, why do “Great Apes” not often have the kind of ischemic heart disease so common in humans?



Timing of appearance of the difference in the Hominin Lineage as a defined date or a lineage separation event. The point in time associated with lineage separation events may change in the future as the scientific community agrees upon better time estimates. Lineage separation events are defined in 2017 as:

  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and old world monkeys was 25,000 - 30,000 thousand (25 - 30 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and chimpanzees was 6,000 - 8,000 thousand (6 - 8 million) years ago
  • the emergence of the genus Homo was 2,000 thousand (2 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and neanderthals was 500 thousand years ago
  • the common ancestor of modern humans was 100 - 300 thousand years ago

Possible Appearance: 
6,000 thousand years ago
Probable Appearance: 
2,000 thousand years ago
Definite Appearance: 
100 thousand years ago
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