Mechanosensing and atherosclerosis

Identifying mechanosensitive pathways in vivo and developing new interventions for TCFA treatment on basis of diseased signalling modules.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is one of the global leading causes of death. In the UK, acute coronary disease syndromes cause c. 60% of all CHD-related deaths, leading to c. 240,000 hospitalizations each year. The vast majority of fatal CHD cases are is directly related to thin-cap-fibro-atheroma (TCFA).

Atherosclerotic plaques, such as TCFA, do not present an even distribution across the arterial endothelium. Instead, they are located at predilection sites, such as side branches, curved segments and bifurcations, which are known to disturb several properties in the blood flow velocity field. Several lines of research indicate that biomechanical factors play an essential role in progression of plaques (e.g. plaque size) and plaque composition . Our group was the first to describe that low shear stress initiates TCFA formation, while vortex formation – which happens near side branches – leads to a stable plaque.