Endothelial nitric oxide synthase and calcium production in arterial geometries: an integrated fluid mechanics/cell model.

Abstract

It is well known that atherosclerosis occurs at very specific locations throughout the human vasculature, such as arterial bifurcations and bends, all of which are subjected to low wall shear stress. A key player in the pathology of atherosclerosis is the endothelium, controlling the passage of material to and from the artery wall. Endothelial dysfunction refers to the condition where the normal regulation of processes by the endothelium is diminished. In this paper, the blood flow and transport of the low diffusion coefficient species adenosine triphosphate (ATP) are investigated in a variety of arterial geometries: a bifurcation with varying inner angle, and an artery bend. A mathematical model of endothelial calcium and endothelial nitric oxide synthase cellular dynamics is used to investigate spatial variations in the physiology of the endothelium. This model allows assessment of regions of the artery wall deficient in nitric oxide (NO). The models here aim to determine whether 3D flow fields are important in determining ATP concentration and endothelial function. For ATP transport, the effects of a coronary and carotid wave form on mass transport is investigated for low Womersley number. For the carotid, the Womersley number is then increased to determine whether this is an important factor. The results show that regions of low wall shear stress correspond with regions of impaired endothetial nitric oxide synthase signaling, therefore reduced availability of NO. However, experimental work is required to determine if this level is significant. The results also suggest that bifurcation angle is an important factor and acute angle bifurcations are more susceptible to disease than large angle bifurcations. It has been evidenced that complex 3D flow fields play an important role in determining signaling within endothelial cells. Furthermore, the distribution of ATP in blood is highly dependent on secondary flow features. The models here use ATP concentration simulated under steady conditions. This has been evidenced to reproduce essential features of time-averaged ATP concentration over a cardiac cycle for small Womersley numbers. However, when the Womersley number is increased, some differences are observed. Transient variations are overall insignificant, suggesting that spatial variation is more important than temporal. It has been determined that acute angle bifurcations are potentially more susceptible to atherogenesis and steady-state ATP transport reproduces essential features of time-averaged pulsatile transport for small Womersley number. Larger Womersley numbers appear to be an important factor in time-dependent mass transfer.

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