Posts Tagged ‘shear stress’

Author: Aviral Vatsa PhD MBBS

This is the first post in a series of posts on mechanosensation and mechanotransduction and their role in physiology and disease.

Future posts in this category will focus on various aspects of role of mechanosensation and mechanotransduction in human physiology. These aspects will include among others: gene modulation, cellular mechanosensation, tissue regeneration, stem cell differentiation, cancer, disease models, nanomodulation, material science and therapeutics etc.

Based on Zhang et al [1]

Multicellular organisms such as humans require intricate orchestration of signals between cells to achieve global morphogenesis and organ function and thus maintain haemostasis. Three major ‘signalling modalities’ work in unison intracellularly and/or exrtacellularly to regulate harmonious functioning of the physiological milieu. These ‘modalities’ namely biochemical molecules, electrical currents or fields and mechanical forces (external or internal) cohesively direct the downstream regulation of physiological processes.

Traditionally most of the biological studies have focused on biochemical or electrical signalling events and relatively lesser resources have been dedicated towards exploring the role of mechanical forces in human health and disease. Despite early theories proposed by scientists such as Julius Wolff (Wolff’s law [2]) in the late nineteenth century “ that bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed”, relatively little has been studied about the role of external mechanical forces in maintaining haemostasis. However, recent important developments such as

  • identification of external force dependent regulation of signalling pathways [3]
  • determination of mechanosensing elements of cellular cytoskeleton [4]
  • manipulation of single molecules [5]

have reinstated the importance of external mechanical forces in physiology. As a result more recent investigations have demonstrated that external mechanical forces are major coordinators of development and haemostasis of organisms [6], [7] [8].

‘Mechanotransduction’ has been traditionally defined as the conversion of mechanical stimulus into chemical cues for the cells and thus altering downstream signalling e.g conformational changes in ion channels might lead to initiation of downstream signalling. However, with the accumulation of new knowledge pertaining to the effects of external mechanical loads on extracellular matrix or a cell or on subcellular structures, it is being widely accepted that mechanotransduction is more than merely a physical switch. Rather it entails the whole spectrum of cell-cell , cell-ECM, and intracellular interactions that can directly or indirectly modulate the functioning of cellular mechanisms involved in haemostasis. This modulation can function at various levels such as organism level, tissue level, cellular level and subcellular level.

Forces in cells and organisms

From biological point of view mechanical forces can be grouped into three categories

  • intracellular forces
  • intercellular forces
  • inter-tissue forces

In the eukaryotic cells these forces are generally generated by the the contractile cytoskeletal machinery of the cell that is comprised of

  • microfilaments : Diameter-6 nm; example- actin
  • intermediate filaments: Diameter-10 nm; example- vimentin, keratin
  • microtubules: Diameter-23 nm; example- alpha and beta tubulin


Actin labeling in single Osteocyte in situ in mouse bone. Source: Aviral Vatsa

Actin labeling in single Osteocyte in situ in mouse bone. Source: Aviral Vatsa

Actin (cytoskeleton) staining of single osteocyte in situ in mouse calvaria (source: Aviral Vatsa)

There are a range of forces generated in the biological milieu (adopted from Mammoto et al [8]): 

  • Hydrostatic pressure: mechanical force applied by fluids or gases (e.g. blood or air) that perfuse or infuse living organs (e.g. blood vessels or lung).
  • Shear stress: frictional force of fluid flow on the surface of cells. The shear stress generated by the heart pumping blood through the systemic circulation has a key role in the determination of the cell fate of cardiomyocytes, endothelial cells and hematopoietic cells.
  • Compressive force: pushing force that shortens the material in the direction of the applied force. Tensional force: pulling force that lengthens materials in the direction of the applied force.
  • Cell traction force: is exerted on the adhesion to the ECM and other cells as a result of the shortening of the contractile cytoskeletal actomyosin filaments, which transmit tensional forces across cell surface adhesion receptors (e.g. integrins, cadherins).
  • Cell prestress: stabilizing isometric tension in the cell that is generated by the establishment of a mechanical force balance within the cytoskeleton through a tensegrity mechanism. Pulling forces generated within contractile microfilaments are resisted by external tethers of the cell (e.g. to the ECM or neighboring cells) and by internal load-bearing structures that resist compression (e.g. microtubules, filipodia). Prestress controls signal transduction and regulates cell fate.

It is the interplay of these forces generated by the cellular cytoskeleton and the ECM that regulate physiological functions. Disruption in mechanotransduction has been implicated in a variety of diseases such as hypertension, muscular dystrophies, cardiomyopathies, loss of hearing, cancer progression and metastasis. Ongoing attempts at unravelling the finer details of mechanosensation hold promising potential for new therapeutic approaches.



[1] H. Zhang and M. Labouesse, “Signalling through mechanical inputs – a coordinated process,” Journal of Cell Science, vol. 125, no. 17, pp. 4172–4172, Oct. 2012.

[2] R. A. Brand, “Biographical Sketch: Julius Wolff, 1836–1902,” Clin Orthop Relat Res, vol. 468, no. 4, pp. 1047–1049, Apr. 2010.

[3] A. J. Hudspeth, “The cellular basis of hearing: the biophysics of hair cells,” Science, vol. 230, no. 4727, pp. 745–752, Nov. 1985.

[4] N. Wang, J. P. Butler, and D. E. Ingber, “Mechanotransduction across the cell surface and through the cytoskeleton,” Science, vol. 260, no. 5111, pp. 1124–1127, May 1993.

[5] J. T. Finer, R. M. Simmons, and J. A. Spudich, “Single myosin molecule mechanics: piconewton forces and nanometre steps,” , Published online: 10 March 1994; | doi:10.1038/368113a0, vol. 368, no. 6467, pp. 113–119, Mar. 1994.

[6] P. A. Janmey and R. T. Miller, “Mechanisms of mechanical signaling in development and disease,” J Cell Sci, vol. 124, no. 1, pp. 9–18, Jan. 2011.

[7] R. Keller, L. A. Davidson, and D. R. Shook, “How we are shaped: The biomechanics of gastrulation,” Differentiation, vol. 71, no. 3, pp. 171–205, Apr. 2003.

[8] T. Mammoto and D. E. Ingber, “Mechanical control of tissue and organ development,” Development, vol. 137, no. 9, pp. 1407–1420, May 2010.



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Special Considerations in Blood Lipoproteins, Viscosity, Assessment and Treatment

Special Considerations in Blood Lipoproteins, Viscosity, Assessment and Treatment

Author: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP


Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

This is the second of a two part discussion of viscosity, hemostasis, and vascular risk

This is Part II of a series on blood flow and shear stress effects on hemostasis and vascular disease.

See Part I on viscosity, triglycerides and LDL, and thrombotic risk.


Hemostatic Factors in Thrombophilia

Objectives.—To review the state of the art relating to elevated hemostatic factor levels as a potential risk factor for thrombosis, as reflected by the medical literature and the consensus opinion of recognized experts in the field, and to make recommendations for the use of specific measurements of hemostatic factor levels in the assessment of thrombotic risk in individual patients.

Data Sources.—Review of the medical literature, primarily from the last 10 years.

Data Extraction and Synthesis.—After an initial assessment of the literature, key points were identified. Experts were assigned to do an in-depth review of the literature and to prepare a summary of their findings and recommendations.

A draft manuscript was prepared and circulated to every participant in the College of American Pathologists Conference XXXVI: Diagnostic Issues in Thrombophilia prior to the conference. Each of the key points and associated recommendations was then presented for discussion at the conference. Recommendations were accepted if a consensus of the 27 experts attending the conference was reached. The results of the discussion were used to revise the manuscript into its final form.

Consensus was reached on 8 recommendations concerning the use of hemostatic factor levels in the assessment of thrombotic risk in individual patients.

The underlying premise for measuring elevated coagulation factor levels is that if the average level of the factor is increased in the patient long-term, then the patient may be at increased risk of thrombosis long-term. Both risk of thrombosis and certain factors increase with age (eg, fibrinogen, factor VII, factor VIII, factor IX, and von Willebrand factor). Are these effects linked or do we need age specific ranges? Do acquired effects like other diseases or medications affect factor levels, and do the same risk thresholds apply in these instances? How do we assure that the level we are measuring is a true indication of the patient’s average baseline level and not a transient change? Fibrinogen, factor VIII, and von Willebrand factor are all strong acute-phase reactants.

Risk of bleeding associated with coagulation factor levels increases with roughly log decreases in factor levels. Compared to normal (100%), 60% to 90% decreases in a coagulation factor may be associated with excess bleeding with major trauma, 95% to 98% decreases with minor trauma, and .99% decrease with spontaneous hemorrhage. In contrast, the difference between low risk and high risk for thrombosis may be separated by as little as 15% above normal.

It may be possible to define relative cutoffs for specific factors, for example, 50% above the mean level determined locally in healthy subjects for a certain factor. Before coagulation factor levels can be routinely used to assess individual risk, work must be done to better standardize and calibrate the assays used.

Detailed discussion of the rationale for each of these recommendations is presented in the article. This is an evolving area of research. While routine use of factor level measurements is not recommended, improvements in assay methodology and further clinical studies may change these recommendations in the future.

Chandler WL, Rodgers GM, Sprouse JT, Thompson AR.  Elevated Hemostatic Factor Levels as Potential Risk Factors for Thrombosis.  Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2002;126:1405–1414

Model System for Hemostatic Behavior

This study explores the behavior of a model system in response to perturbations in

  • tissue factor
  • thrombomodulin surface densities
  • tissue factor site dimensions
  • wall shear rate.

The classic time course is characterized by

  • initiation and
  • amplification of thrombin generation
  • the existence of threshold-like responses

This author defines a new parameter, the „effective prothrombotic zone‟,  and its dependence on model parameters. It was found that prothrombotic effects may extend significantly beyond the dimensions of the spatially discrete site of tissue factor expression in both axial and radial directions. Furthermore, he takes advantage of the finite element modeling approach to explore the behavior of systems containing multiple spatially distinct sites of TF expression in a physiologic model. The computational model is applied to assess individualized thrombotic risk from clinical data of plasma coagulation factor levels. He proposes a systems-based parameter with deep venous thrombosis using computational methods in combination with biochemical panels to predict hypercoagulability for high risk populations.


The Vascular Surface

The ‘resting’ endothelium synthesizes and presents a number of antithrombogenic molecules including

  • heparan sulfate proteoglycans
  • ecto-adenosine diphosphatase
  • prostacyclin
  • nitric oxide
  • thrombomodulin.

In response to various stimuli

  • inflammatory mediators
  • hypoxia
  • oxidative stress
  • fluid shear stress

the cell surface becomes ‘activated’ and serves to organize membrane-associated enzyme complexes of coagulation.

Fluid Phase Models of Coagulation

Leipold et al. developed a model of the tissue factor pathway as a design aid for the development of exogenous serine protease inhibitors. In contrast, Guo et al. focused on the reactions of the contact, or intrinsic pathway, to study parameters relevant to material-induced thrombosis, including procoagulant surface area.

Alternative approaches to modeling the coagulation cascade have been pursued including the use of stochastic activity networks to represent the intrinsic, extrinsic, and common pathways through fibrin formation and a kinetic Monte Carlo simulation of TF-initiated thrombin generation. Generally, fluid phase models of the kinetics of coagulation are both computationally and experimentally less complex. As such, the computational models are able to incorporate a large number of species and their reactions, and empirical data is often available for regression analysis and model validation. The range of complexity and motivations for these models is wide, and the models have been used to describe various phenomena including the ‘all-or-none’ threshold behavior of thrombin generation. However, the role of blood flow in coagulation is well recognized in promoting the delivery of substrates to the vessel wall and in regulating the thrombin response by removing activated clotting factors.

Flow Based Models of Coagulation

In 1990, Basmadjian presented a mathematical analysis of the effect of flow and mass transport on a single reactive event at the vessel wall and consequently laid the foundation for the first flow-based models of coagulation. It was proposed that for vessels greater than 0.1 mm in diameter, reactive events at the vessel wall could be adequately described by the assumption of a concentration boundary layer very close to the reactive surface, within which the majority of concentration changes took place. The height of the boundary layer and the mass transfer coefficient that described transport to and from the vessel wall were shown to stabilize on a time scale much shorter than the time scale over which concentration changes were empirically observed. Thus, the vascular space could be divided into two compartments, a boundary volume and a bulk volume, and furthermore, changes within the bulk phase could be considered negligible, thereby reducing the previously intractable problem to a pseudo-one compartment model described by a system of ordinary differential equations.

Basmadjian et al. subsequently published a limited model of six reactions, including two positive feedback reactions and two inhibitory reactions, of the common pathway of coagulation triggered by exogenous factor IXa under flow. As a consequence of the definition of the mass transfer coefficient, the kinetic parameters were dependent on the boundary layer height. Furthermore, the model did not explicitly account for intrinsic tenase or prothrombinase formation, but rather derived a rate expression for reaction in the presence of a cofactor. The major finding of the study was the predicted effect of increased mass transport to enhance thrombin generation by decreasing the induction time up to a critical mass transfer rate, beyond which transport significantly decreased peak thrombin levels thereby reducing overall thrombin production.

Kuharsky and Fogelson formulated a more comprehensive, pseudo-one compartment model of tissue factor-initiated coagulation under flow, which included the description of 59 distinct fluid- and surface-bound species. In contrast to the Baldwin-Basmadjian model, which defined a mass transfer coefficient as a rate of transport to the vessel surface, the Kuharsky-Fogelson model defined the mass transfer coefficient as a rate of transport into the boundary volume, thus eliminating the dependence of kinetic parameters on transport parameters. The computational study focused on the threshold response of thrombin generation to the availability of membrane binding sites. Additionally, the model suggested that adhered platelets may play a role in blocking the activity of the TF/ VIIa complex. Fogelson and Tania later expanded the model to include the protein C and TFPI pathways.

Modeling surface-associated reactions under flow uses finite element method (FEM), which is a technique for solving partial differential equations by dividing the vascular space into a finite number of discrete elements. Hall et al. used FEM to simulate factor X activation over a surface presenting TF in a parallel plate flow reactor. The steady state model was defined by the convection-diffusion equation and Michaelis-Menten reaction kinetics at the surface. The computational results were compared to experimental data for the generation of factor Xa by cultured rat vascular smooth muscle cells expressing TF.

Based on discrepancies between numerical and experimental studies, the catalytic activity of the TF/ VIIa complex may be shear-dependent. Towards the overall objective of developing an antithrombogenic biomaterial, Tummala and Hall studied the kinetics of factor Xa inhibition by surface-immobilized recombinant TFPI under unsteady flow conditions. Similarly, Byun et al. investigated the association and dissociation kinetics of ATIII inactivation of thrombin accelerated by surface-immobilized heparin under steady flow conditions. To date, finite element models that detail surface-bound reactions under flow have been restricted to no more than a single reaction catalyzed by a single surface-immobilized species.


Models of Coagulation Incorporating Spatial Parameter

Major findings include the roles of these specific coagulation pathways in the

  • initiation
  • amplification
  • termination phases of coagulation.

Coagulation near the activating surface was determined by TF/VIIa catalyzed factor Xa production, which was rapidly inhibited close to the wall. In contrast, factor IXa diffused farther from the surface, and thus factor Xa generation and clot formation away from the reactive wall was dependent on intrinsic tenase (IXa/ VIIIa) activity. Additionally, the concentration wave of thrombin propagated away from the activation zone at a rate which was dependent on the efficiency of inhibitory mechanisms.

Experimental and ‘virtual’ addition of plasma-phase thrombomodulin resulted in dose-dependent termination of thrombin generation and provided evidence of spatial localization of clot formation by TM with final clot lengths of 0.2-2 mm under diffusive conditions.

These studies provide an interesting analysis of the roles of specific factors in relation to space due to diffusive effects, but neglect the essential role of blood flow in the transport analysis. Additionally, the spatial dynamics of clot localization by thrombomodulin would likely be affected by restricting the inhibitor to its physiologic site on the vessel surface.

Finite Element Modeling

Finite element method (FEM) is a numerical technique for solving partial differential equations. Originally proposed in the 1940s to approach structural analysis problems in civil engineering, FEM now finds application in a wide variety of disciplines. The computational method relies on mesh discretization of a continuous domain which subdivides the space into a finite number of ‘elements’. The physics of each element are defined by its own set of physical properties and boundary conditions, and the simultaneous solution of the equations describing the individual elements approximate the behavior of the overall domain.

Sumanas W. Jordan, PhD Thesis. A Mathematical Model of Tissue Factor-Induced Blood Coagulation: Discrete Sites of Initiation and Regulation under Conditions of Flow.

Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Engineering. Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology. May 2010.  Under supervision of: Dr. Elliot L. Chaikof, Departments of Surgery and Biomedical Engineering.

Blood Coagulation (Thrombin) and Protein C Pat...

Blood Coagulation (Thrombin) and Protein C Pathways (Blood_Coagulation_and_Protein_C_Pathways.jpg) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coagulation cascade

Coagulation cascade (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Cardiovascular Physiology: Modeling, Estimation and Signal Processing

With cardiovascular diseases being among the main causes of death in the world, quantitative modeling, assessment and monitoring of cardiovascular dynamics, and functioning play a critical role in bringing important breakthroughs to cardiovascular care. Quantification of cardiovascular physiology and its control mechanisms from physiological recordings, by use of mathematical models and algorithms, has been proved to be of important value in understanding the causes of cardiovascular diseases and assisting the diagnostic and prognostic process. This E-Book is derived from the Frontiers in Computational Physiology and Medicine Research Topic entitled “Engineering Approaches to Study Cardiovascular Physiology: Modeling, Estimation and Signal Processing.”

There are two review articles. The first review article by Chen et al. (2012) presents a unified point process probabilistic framework to assess heart beat dynamics and autonomic cardiovascular control. Using clinical recordings of healthy subjects during Propofol anesthesia, the authors demonstrate the effectiveness of their approach by applying the proposed paradigm to estimate

  • instantaneous heart rate (HR),
  • heart rate variability (HRV),
  • respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA)
  • baroreflex sensitivity (BRS).

The second review article, contributed by Zhang et al. (2011), provides a comprehensive overview of tube-load model parameter estimation for monitoring arterial hemodynamics.

The remaining eight original research articles can be mainly classified into two categories. The two articles from the first category emphasize modeling and estimation methods. In particular, the paper “Modeling the autonomic and metabolic effects of obstructive sleep apnea: a simulation study” by Cheng and Khoo (2012), combines computational modeling and simulations to study the autonomic and metabolic effects of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

The second paper, “Estimation of cardiac output and peripheral resistance using square-wave-approximated aortic flow signal” by Fazeli and Hahn (2012), presents a model-based approach to estimate cardiac output (CO) and total peripheral resistance (TPR), and validates the proposed approach via in vivo experimental data from animal subjects.

The six articles in the second category focus on application of signal processing techniques and statistical tools to analyze cardiovascular or physiological signals in practical applications. the paper “Modulation of the sympatho-vagal balance during sleep: frequency domain study of heart rate variability and respiration” by Cabiddu et al. (2012), uses spectral and cross-spectral analysis of heartbeat and respiration signals to assess autonomic cardiac regulation and cardiopulmonary coupling variations during different sleep stages in healthy subjects.

The paper “increased non-gaussianity of heart rate variability predicts cardiac mortality after an acute myocardial infarction” by Hayano et al. (2011) uses a new non-gaussian index to assess the HRV of cardiac mortality using 670 post-acute myocardial infarction (AMI) patients. the paper “non-gaussianity of low frequency heart rate variability and sympathetic activation: lack of increases in multiple system atrophy and parkinson disease” by Kiyono et al. (2012), applies a non-gaussian index to assess HRV in patients with multiple system atrophy (MSA) and parkinson diseases and reports the relation between the non-gaussian intermittency of the heartbeat and increased sympathetic activity. The paper “Information domain approach to the investigation of cardio-vascular, cardio-pulmonary, and vasculo-pulmonary causal couplings” by Faes et al. (2011), proposes an information domain approach to evaluate nonlinear causality among heartbeat, arterial pressure, and respiration measures during tilt testing and paced breathing protocols. The paper “integrated central-autonomic multifractal complexity in the heart rate variability of healthy humans” by Lin and Sharif (2012), uses a relative multifractal complexity measure to assess HRV in healthy humans and discusses the related implications in central autonomic interactions. Lastly, the paper “Time scales of autonomic information flow in near-term fetal sheep” by Frasch et al. (2012), analyzes the autonomic information flow (AIF) with kullback–leibler entropy in fetal sheep as a function of vagal and sympathetic modulation of fetal HRV during atropine and propranolol blockade.

In summary, this Research Topic attempts to give a general panorama of the possible state-of-the-art modeling methodologies, practical tools in signal processing and estimation, as well as several important clinical applications, which can altogether help deepen our understanding about heart physiology and pathology and further lead to new scientific findings. We hope that the readership of Frontiers will appreciate this collected volume and enjoy reading the presented contributions. Finally, we are grateful to all contributed authors, reviewers, and editorial staffs who had all put tremendous effort to make this E-Book a reality.

Cabiddu, R., Cerutti, S., Viardot, G., Werner, S., and Bianchi, A. M. (2012). Modulation of the sympatho-vagal balance during sleep: frequency domain study of heart rate variability and respiration. Front. Physio. 3:45. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00045

Chen, Z., Purdon, P. L., Brown, E. N., and Barbieri, R. (2012). A unified point process probabilistic framework to assess heartbeat dynamics and autonomic cardiovascular control. Front. Physio. 3:4. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00004

Cheng, L., and Khoo, M. C. K. (2012). Modeling the autonomic and metabolic effects of obstructive sleep apnea: a simulation study. Front. Physio. 2:111. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2011.00111

Faes, L., Nollo, G., and Porta, A. (2011). Information domain approach to the investigation of cardio-vascular, cardio-pulmonary, and vasculo-pulmonary causal couplings. Front. Physio. 2:80. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2011.00080

Fazeli, N., and Hahn, J.-O. (2012). Estimation of cardiac output and peripheral resistance using square-wave-approximated aortic flow signal. Front. Physio. 3:298. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00298

Frasch, M. G., Frank, B., Last, M., and Müller, T. (2012). Time scales of autonomic information flow in near-term fetal sheep. Front. Physio. 3:378. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00378

Hayano, J., Kiyono, K., Struzik, Z. R., Yamamoto, Y., Watanabe, E., Stein, P. K., et al. (2011). Increased non-gaussianity of heart rate variability predicts cardiac mortality after an acute myocardial infarction. Front. Physio. 2:65. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2011.00065

Kiyono, K., Hayano, J., Kwak, S., Watanabe, E., and Yamamoto, Y. (2012). Non-Gaussianity of low frequency heart rate variability and sympathetic activation: lack of increases in multiple system atrophy and Parkinson disease. Front. Physio. 3:34. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00034

Lin, D. C., and Sharif, A. (2012). Integrated central-autonomic multifractal complexity in the heart rate variability of healthy humans. Front. Physio. 2:123. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2011.00123

Zhang, G., Hahn, J., and Mukkamala, R. (2011). Tube-load model parameter estimation for monitoring arterial hemodynamics. Front. Physio. 2:72. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2011.00072

Citation: Chen Z and Barbieri R (2012) Editorial: engineering approaches to study cardiovascular physiology: modeling, estimation, and signal processing. Front. Physio. 3:425. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00425

fluctuations of cerebral blood flow and metabolic demand following hypoxia in neonatal brain

Most of the research investigating the pathogenesis of perinatal brain injury following hypoxia-ischemia has focused on excitotoxicity, oxidative stress and an inflammatory response, with the response of the developing cerebrovasculature receiving less attention. This is surprising as the presentation of devastating and permanent injury such as germinal matrix-intraventricular haemorrhage (GM-IVH) and perinatal stroke are of vascular origin, and the origin of periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) may also arise from poor perfusion of the white matter. This highlights that cerebrovasculature injury following hypoxia could primarily be responsible for the injury seen in the brain of many infants diagnosed with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).

The highly dynamic nature of the cerebral blood vessels in the fetus, and the fluctuations of cerebral blood flow and metabolic demand that occur following hypoxia suggest that the response of blood vessels could explain both regional protection and vulnerability in the developing brain.

This review discusses the current concepts on the pathogenesis of perinatal brain injury, the development of the fetal cerebrovasculature and the blood brain barrier (BBB), and key mediators involved with the response of cerebral blood vessels to hypoxia.

Baburamani AA, Ek CJ, Walker DW and Castillo-Melendez M. Vulnerability of the developing brain to hypoxic-ischemic damage: contribution of the cerebral vasculature to injury and repair? Front. Physio. 2012;  3:424. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00424

remodeling of coronary and cerebral arteries and arterioles 

Effects of hypertension on arteries and arterioles often manifest first as a thickened wall, with associated changes in passive material properties (e.g., stiffness) or function (e.g., cellular phenotype, synthesis and removal rates, and vasomotor responsiveness). Less is known, however, regarding the relative evolution of such changes in vessels from different vascular beds.

We used an aortic coarctation model of hypertension in the mini-pig to elucidate spatiotemporal changes in geometry and wall composition (including layer-specific thicknesses as well as presence of collagen, elastin, smooth muscle, endothelial, macrophage, and hematopoietic cells) in three different arterial beds, specifically aortic, cerebral, and coronary, and vasodilator function in two different arteriolar beds, the cerebral and coronary.

Marked geometric and structural changes occurred in the thoracic aorta and left anterior descending coronary artery within 2 weeks of the establishment of hypertension and continued to increase over the 8-week study period. In contrast, no significant changes were observed in the middle cerebral arteries from the same animals. Consistent with these differential findings at the arterial level, we also found a diminished nitric oxide-mediated dilation to adenosine at 8 weeks of hypertension in coronary arterioles, but not cerebral arterioles.

These findings, coupled with the observation that temporal changes in wall constituents and the presence of macrophages differed significantly between the thoracic aorta and coronary arteries, confirm a strong differential progressive remodeling within different vascular beds.

These results suggest a spatiotemporal progression of vascular remodeling, beginning first in large elastic arteries and delayed in distal vessels.

Hayenga HN, Hu J-J, Meyer CA, Wilson E, Hein TW, Kuo L and Humphrey JD  Differential progressive remodeling of coronary and cerebral arteries and arterioles in an aortic coarctation model of hypertension. Front. Physio. 2012; 3:420. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00420

C-reactive protein oxidant-mediated release of pro-thrombotic  factor

Inflammation and the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been implicated in the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis. Although C-reactive protein (CRP) has traditionally been considered to be a biomarker of inflammation, recent in vitro and in vivo studies have provided evidence that CRP, itself, exerts pro-thrombotic effects on vascular cells and may thus play a critical role in the development of atherothrombosis. Of particular importance is that CRP interacts with Fcγ receptors on cells of the vascular wall giving rise to the release of pro-thrombotic factors. The present review focuses on distinct sources of CRP-mediated ROS generation as well as the pivotal role of ROS in CRP-induced tissue factor expression. These studies provide considerable insight into the role of the oxidative mechanisms in CRP-mediated stimulation of pro-thrombotic factors and activation of platelets. Collectively, the available data provide strong support for ROS playing an important intermediary role in the relationship between CRP and atherothrombosis.

Zhang Z, Yang Y, Hill MA and Wu J.  Does C-reactive protein contribute to atherothrombosis via oxidant-mediated release of pro-thrombotic factors and activation of platelets? Front. Physio.  2012; 3:433. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00433

CRP association with Peripheral Vascular Disease

To determine whether the increase in plasma levels of C-Reactive Protein (CRP), a non-specifi c reactant in the acute-phase of systemic infl ammation, is associated with clinical severity of peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

This is a cross-sectional study at a referral hospital center of institutional practice in Madrid, Spain.  These investigators took a stratifi ed random sampling of 3370 patients with symptomatic PAD from the outpatient vascular laboratory database in 2007 in the order of their clinical severity:

  • the fi rst group of patients with mild chronological clinical severity who did not require surgical revascularization,
  • the second group consisted of patients with moderate clinical severity who had only undergone only one surgical revascularization procedure and
  • the third group consisted of patients who were severely affected and had undergone two or more surgical revascularization procedures of the lower extremities in different areas or needed late re-interventions.

The Neyman affi xation was used to calculate the sample size with a fi xed relative error of 0.1.

A homogeneity analysis between groups and a unifactorial analysis of comparison of medians for CRP was done.

The groups were homogeneous for

  • age
  • smoking status
  • Arterial Hypertension
  • diabetes mellitus
  • dyslipemia
  • homocysteinemia and
  • specifi c markers of infl ammation.

In the unifactorial analysis of multiple comparisons of medians according to Scheffé, it was observed that

the median values of CRP plasma levels were increased in association with higher clinical severity of PAD

  • 3.81 mg/L [2.14–5.48] vs.
  • 8.33 [4.38–9.19] vs.
  • 12.83 [9.5–14.16]; p  0.05

as a unique factor of tested ones.

Plasma levels of CRP are associated with not only the presence of atherosclerosis but also with its chronological clinical severity.

De Haro J, Acin F, Medina FJ, Lopez-Quintana A, and  March JR.  Relationship Between the Plasma Concentration of C-Reactive Protein and Severity of Peripheral Arterial Disease.
Clinical Medicine: Cardiology 2009;3: 1–7

Hemostasis induced by hyperhomocysteinemia

Elevated concentration of homocysteine (Hcy) in human tissues, defined as hyperhomocysteinemia has been correlated with some diseases, such as

  • cardiovascular
  • neurodegenerative
  • kidney disorders

L-Homocysteine (Hcy) is an endogenous amino acid, containing a free thiol group, which in healthy cells is involved in methionine and cysteine synthesis/resynthesis. Indirectly, Hcy participates in methyl, folate, and cellular thiol metabolism. Approximately 80% of total plasma Hcy is protein-bound, and only a small amount exists as a free reduced Hcy (about 0.1 μM). The majority of the unbound fraction of Hcy is oxidized, and forms dimers (homocystine) or mixed disulphides consisting of cysteine and Hcy.

Two main pathways of Hcy biotoxicity are discussed:

  1. Hcy-dependent oxidative stress – generated during oxidation of the free thiol group of Hcy. Hcy binds via a disulphide bridge with

—     plasma proteins

—     or with other low-molecular plasma  thiols

—     or with a second Hcy molecule.

Accumulation of oxidized biomolecules alters the biological functions of many cellular pathways.

  1. Hcy-induced protein structure modifications, named homocysteinylation.

Two main types of homocysteinylation exist: S-homocysteinylation and N-homocysteinylation; both considered as posttranslational protein modifications.

a)      S-homocysteinylation occurs when Hcy reacts, by its free thiol group, with another free thiol derived from a cysteine residue in a protein molecule.

These changes can alter the thiol-dependent redox status of proteins.

b)      N-homocysteinylation takes place after acylation of the free ε-amino lysine groups of proteins by the most reactive form of Hcy — its cyclic thioester (Hcy thiolactone — HTL), representing up to 0.29% of total plasma Hcy.

Homocysteine occurs in human blood plasma in several forms, including the most reactive one, the homocysteine thiolactone (HTL) — a cyclic thioester, which represents up to 0.29% of total plasma Hcy. In human blood, N-homocysteinylated (N-Hcy-protein) and S-homocysteinylated proteins (S-Hcy-protein) such as NHcy-hemoglobin, N-(Hcy-S-S-Cys)-albumin, and S-Hcyalbumin are known. Other pathways of Hcy biotoxicity might be apoptosis and excitotoxicity mediated through glutamate receptors. The relationship between homocysteine and risk appears to hold for total plasma concentrations of homocysteine between 10 and 30 μM.

Different forms of homocysteine present in human blood.

*Total level of homocysteine — the term “total homocysteine” describes the pool of homocysteine released by reduction of all disulphide bonds in the sample (Perla-Kajan et al., 2007; Zimny, 2008; Manolescu et al., 2010, modified).

The form of Hcy The concentration in human blood
Homocysteine thiolactone (HTL) 0–35 nM
Protein N-linked homocysteine:
N-Hcy-hemoglobin, N-(Hcy-S-S-Cys)-albumin
about 15.5 μM: 12.7 μM, 2.8 μM
Protein S-linked homocysteine — S-Hcy-albumin about 7.3 μM*
Homocystine (Hcy-S-S-Hcy) and combined with cysteine to from mixed disulphides (Hcy-S-S-Cys) about 2 μM*
Free reduced Hcy about 0.1 μM*

As early as in the 1960s it was noted that the risk of atherosclerosis is markedly increased in patients with homocystinuria, an inherited disease resulting from homozygous CBS deficiency and characterized by episodes of

—     thromboembolism

—     mental retardation

—     lens dislocation

—     hepatic steatosis

—     osteoporosis.

—     very high concentrations of plasma homocysteine and methionine.

Patients with homocystinuria have very severe hyperhomocysteinemia, with plasma homocysteine concentration reaching even 400 μM, and represent a very small proportion of the population (approximately 1 in 200,000 individuals). Heterozygous lack of CBS, CBS mutations and polymorphism of the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene are considered to be the most probable causes of hyperhomocysteinemia.

The effects of hyperhomocysteinemia include the complex process of hemostasis, which regulates the properties of blood flow. Interactions of homocysteine and its different derivatives, including homocysteine thiolactone, with the major components of hemostasis are:

  • endothelial cells
  • platelets
  • fibrinogen
  • plasminogen

Elevated plasma Hcy (>15 μM; Hcy) is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases

  • thrombosis
  • thrombosis related diseases
  • ischemic brain stroke (independent of other, conventional risk factors of this disease)

Every increase of 2.5 μM in plasma Hcy may be associated with an increase of stroke risk of about 20%.  Total plasma Hcy level above 20 μM are associated with a nine-fold increase of the myocardial infarction and stroke risk, in comparison to the concentrations below 9 μM. The increase of Hcy concentration has been also found in other human pathologies, including neurodegenerative diseases

Modifications of hemostatic proteins (N-homocysteinylation or S-homocysteinylation) induced by Hcy or its thiolactone seem to be the main cause of homocysteine biotoxicity in hemostatic abnormalities.

Hcy and HTL may act as oxidants, but various polyphenolic antioxidants are able to inhibit the oxidative damage induced by Hcy or HTL. Therefore, we have to consider the role of phenolic antioxidants in hyperhomocysteinemia –induced changes in hemostasis.

The synthesis of homocysteine thiolactone is associated with the activation of the amino acid by aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase (AARS). Hcy may also undergo erroneous activation, e.g. by methionyl-t-RNA synthetase (MetRS). In the first step of conversion of Hcy to HTL, MetRS misactivates Hcy giving rise to homocysteinyl-adenylate. In the next phase, the homocysteine side chain thiol group reacts with the activated carboxyl group and HTL is produced. The level of HTL synthesis in cultured cells depends on Hcy and Met levels.

Hyperhomocysteinemia and Changes in Fibrinolysis and Coagulation Process

The fibrinolytic activity of blood is regulated by specific inhibitors; the inhibition of fibrinolysis takes place at the level of plasminogen activation (by PA-inhibitors: plasminogen activator inhibitor type-1, -2; PAI-1 or PAI-2) or at the level of plasmin activity (mainly by α2-antiplasmin). Hyperhomocysteinemia disturbs hemostasis and shifts the hemostatic mechanisms in favor of thrombosis. The recent reports indicate that the prothrombotic state observed in hyperhomocysteinemia may arise not only due to endothelium dysfunction or blood platelet and coagulation activation, but also due to impaired fibrinolysis. Hcy-modified fibrinogen is more resistant to the fibrinolytic action. Oral methionine load increases total Hcy, but may diminish the fibrinolytic activity of the euglobulin plasma fraction. Homocysteine-lowering therapies may increase fibrinolytic activity, thereby, prevent atherothrombotic events in patients with cardiovascular diseases after the first myocardial infarction.

Homocysteine — Fibronectin Interaction and its Consequences

Fibronectin (Fn) plays key roles in

  • cell adhesion
  • migration
  • embryogenesis
  • differentiation
  • hemostasis
  • thrombosis
  • wound healing
  • tissue remodeling

Interaction of FN with fibrin, mediated by factor XIII transglutaminase, is thought to be important for cell adhesion or cell migration into fibrin clots. After tissue injury, a blood clot formation serves the dual role of restoring vascular integrity and serving as a temporary scaffold for the wound healing process. Fibrin and plasma FN, the major protein components of blood clots, are essential to perform these functions. In the blood clotting process, after fibrin deposition, plasma FN-fibrin matrix is covalently crosslinked, and it then promotes fibroblast adhesion, spreading, and migration into the clot.

Homocysteine binds to several human plasma proteins, including fibronectin. If homocysteine binds to fibronectin via a disulphide linkage, this binding results in a functional change, namely, the inhibition of fibrin binding by fibronectin. This inhibition may lead to a prolonged recovery from a thrombotic event and contribute to vascular occlusion.

Grape seeds are one of the richest plant sources of phenolic substances, and grape seed extract reduces the toxic effect of Hcys and HTL on fibrinolysis. The grape seed extract (12.5–50 μg/ml) supported plasminogen to plasmin conversion inhibited by Hcys or HTL. In vitro experiments showed in the presence of grape seed extract (at the highest tested concentration — 50 μg/ml) the increase of about 78% (for human plasminogen-treated with Hcys) and 56% (for human plasma-treated with Hcys). Thus, in the in vitro model system, that the grape seed extract (12.5–50 μg/ml) diminished the reduction of thiol groups and of lysine ε-amino groups in plasma proteins treated with Hcys (0.1 mM) or HTL (1 μM). In the presence of the grape seed extract at the concentration of 50 μg/ml, the level of reduction of thiol groups reached about 45% (for plasma treated with Hcys) and about 15% (for plasma treated with HTL).

In the presence of the grape seed extract at the concentration of 50 μg/ml, the level of reduction of thiol groups reached about 45% (for plasma treated with Hcys) and about 15% (for plasma treated with HTL).Very similar protective effects of the grape seed extract were observed in the measurements of lysine ε-amino groups in plasma proteins treated with Hcys or HTL. These results indicated that the extract from berries of Aronia melanocarpa (a rich source of phenolic substances) reduces the toxic effects of Hcy and HTL on the hemostatic properties of fibrinogen and plasma. These findings indicate a possible protective action of the A. melanocarpa extract in hyperhomocysteinemia-induced cardiovascular disorders. Moreover, the extract from berries of A. melanocarpa, due to its antioxidant action, significantly attenuated the oxidative stress (assessed by measuring of the total antioxidant status — TAS) in plasma in a model of hyperhomocysteinemia.

Proposed model for the protective role of phenolic antioxidants on selected elements of hemostasis during hyperhomocysteinemia.

various antioxidants (present in human diet), including phenolic compounds, may reduce the toxic effects of Hcy or its derivatives on hemostasis. These findings give hope for the develop development of dietary supplements, which will be capable of preventing thrombosis which occurs under pathological conditions, observed also in hyperhomocysteinemia, such as plasma procoagulant activity and oxidative stress.

Malinowska J,  Kolodziejczyk J and Olas B. The disturbance of hemostasis induced by hyper-homocysteinemia; the role of antioxidants. Acta Biochimica Polonica 2012; 59(2): 185–194.

Lipoprotein (a)

Lipoprotein (a) (Lp(a)), for the first time described in 1963 by Berg belongs to the lipoproteins with the strongest atherogenic effect. Its importance for the development of various atherosclerotic vasculopathies (coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, peripheral vasculopathy, abdominal aneurysm) was recognized considerably later.

Lipoprotein(a) (Lp(a)), an established risk marker of cardiovascular diseases, is independent from other risk markers. The main difference of Lp(a) compared to low density lipoprotein (LDL) is the apo(a) residue, covalently bound to apoB is covalently by a disulfide-bridge. Apo(a) synthesis is performed in the liver, probably followed by extracellular assembly to the apoB location of the LDL.


ApoB-100_______LDL¬¬___ S-S –    9

Apo(a) has been detected bound to triglyceride-rich lipoproteins (Very Low Density Lipoproteins; VLDL). Corresponding to the structural similarity to LDL, both particles are very similar to each other with regard to their composition. It is a glycoprotein which underlies a large genetic polymorphism caused by a variation of the kringle-IV-type-2 repeats of the protein, characterized by a structural homology to plasminogen. Apo(a)’s structural homology to plasminogen, shares the gene localization on chromosome 6. The kringle repeats present a particularly characteristic structure, which have a high similarity to kringle IV (K IV) of plasminogen. Apo(a) also has a kringle V structure of plasminogen and also a protease domain, which cannot be activated, as opposed to the one of plasminogen. At least 30 genetically determined apo(a) isoforms were identified in man.


  • Non covalent binding of kringle -4 types 7 and 8 of apo (a) to apo B
  • Disulfide bond at Cys4326 of ApoB (near its receptor binding domain ) and the only free cysteine group in K –IV type 9 (Cys4057) of apo(a )
  • Binding to fibrin and cell membranes
  • Enhancement by small isoforms ; high concentrations compared to plasminogen and homocysteine
  • Binding to different lysine rich components of the coagulation system (e. g. TFPI)
  • Intense homology to plasminogen but no protease activity
ApoB-100_______LDL¬¬___ S-S – 9

The synthesis of Lp(a), which thus occurs as part of an assembly, is a two-step process.

  • In a first step, which can be competitively inhibited by lysine analogues, the free sulfhydryl groups of apo(a) and apoB are brought close together.
  • The binding of apo(a) then occurs near the apoB domain which binds to the LDL receptor, resulting in a reduced affinity of Lp(a) to the LDL-receptor.

Particles that show a reduced affinity to the LDL receptor are not able to form stable compounds with apo(a). Thus the largest part of apo(a) is present as apo(a) bound to LDL. Only a small, quantitatively variable part of apo(a) remains as free apo(a) and probably plays an important role in the metabolism and physiological function of Lp(a).

The Lp(a) plasma concentration in the population is highly skewed and determined to more than 90 % by genetic factors. In healthy subjects the Lp(a)-concentration is correlated with its synthesis.

It is assumed that the kidney has a specific function in Lp(a) catabolizm, since nephrotic syndrome and terminal kidney failure are associated with an elevation of the Lp(a) plasma concentration. One consequence of the poor knowledge of the metabolic path of Lp(a) is the fact that so far pharmaceutical science has failed to develop drugs that are able to reduce elevated Lp(a) plasma concentrations to a desirable level.

Plasma concentrations of Lp(a) are affected by different diseases (e.g. diseases of liver and kidney), hormonal factors (e.g. sexual steroids, glucocorticoids, thyroid hormones), individual and environmental factors (e.g. age, cigarette smoking) as well as pharmaceuticals (e.g. derivatives of nicotinic acid) and therapeutic procedures (lipid apheresis). This review describes the physiological regulation of Lp(a) as well as factors influencing its plasma concentration.

Apart from its significance as an important agent in the development of atherosclerosis, Lp(a) has even more physiological functions, e.g. in

  • wound healing
  • angiogenesis
  • hemostasis

However, in the meaning of a pleiotropic mechanism the favorable action mechanisms are opposed by pathogenic mechanisms, whereby the importance of Lp(a) in atherogenesis is stressed.

Lp(a) in Atherosclerosis

In transgenic, hyperlipidemic and Lp(a) expressing Watanabe rabbits, Lp(a) leads to enhanced atherosclerosis. Under the influence of Lp(a), the binding of Lp(a) to glycoproteins, e.g. laminin, results – via its apo(a)-part – both in

  • an increased invasion of inflammatory cells and in
  • an activation of smooth vascular muscle cells

with subsequent calcifications in the vascular wall.

The inhibition of transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) activation is another mechanism via which Lp(a) contributes to the development of atherosclerotic vasculopathies. TGF-β1 is subject to proteolytic activation by plasmin and its active form leads to an inhibition of the proliferation and migration of smooth muscle cells, which play a central role in the formation and progression of atherosclerotic vascular diseases.

In man, Lp(a) is an important risk marker which is independent of other risk markers. Its importance, partly also under consideration of the molecular weight and other genetic polymorphisms, could be demonstrated by a high number of epidemiological and clinical studies investigating the formation and progression of atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, and stroke.

Lp(a) in Hemostasis

Lp(a) is able to competitively inhibit the binding of plasminogen to fibrinogen and fibrin, and to inhibit the fibrin-dependent activation of plasminogen to plasmin via the tissue plasminogen activator, whereby apo(a) isoforms of low molecular weight have a higher affinity to fibrin than apo(a) isoforms of higher molecular weight. Like other compounds containing sulfhydryl groups, homocysteine enhances the binding of Lp(a) to fibrin.

Pleiotropic effect of Lp(a).

Prothrombotic :

  • Binding to fibrin
  • Competitive inhibition of plasminogen
  • Stimulation of plasminogen activator inhibitor I and II (PAI -I, PAI -II)
  • Inactivation of tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI)

Antithrombotic :

  • Inhibition of platelet activating factor acetylhydrolase (PAF -AH)
  • Inhibition of platelet activating factor
  • Inhibition of collagen dependent platelet aggregation
  • Inhibition of secretion of serotonin und thromboxane

Lp(a) in Angiogenesis

Lp(a) is also important for the process of angiogenesis and the sprouting of new vessels.

  • angiogenesis starts with the remodelling of matrix proteins and
  • activation of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP).

The latter ones are usually synthesised as

  • inactive zymogens and
  • require activation by proteases,

Recall that Apo(a) is not activated by proteases. The angiogenesis is also accomplished by plasminogen. Lp(a) and apo(a) and its fragments has an antiangiogenetic and metastasis inhibiting effect related to the structural homology with plasminogen without the protease activity.

Siekmeier R, Scharnagl H, Kostner GM, T. Grammer T, Stojakovic T and März W.  Variation of Lp(a) Plasma Concentrations in Health and Disease.  The Open Clinical Chemistry Journal, 2010; 3: 72-89.


In 1985, Brown and Goldstein were awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine for their work on the regulation of cholesterol metabolism. On the basis of numerous studies, they were able to demonstrate that circulating low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is absorbed into the cell through receptor linked endocytosis. The absorption of LDL into the cell is specific and is mediated by a LDL receptor. In patients with familial hypercholesterolemia, this receptor is changed, and the LDL particles can no longer be recognized. Their absorption can thus no longer be mediated, leading to an accumulation of LDL in blood.

Furthermore, an excess supply of cholesterol also blocks the 3-hydrox-3 methylglutaryl-Co enzyme A (HMG CoA), reductase enzyme, which otherwise inhibits the cholesterol synthesis rate. Brown and Goldstein also determined the structure of the LDL receptor. They discovered structural defects in this receptor in many patients with familial hypercholesterolemia. Thus, familial hypercholesterolemia was the first metabolic disease that could be tracked back to the mutation of a receptor gene.

Dyslipoproteinemia in combination with diabetes mellitus causes a cumulative insult to the vasculature resulting in more severe disease which occurs at an earlier age in large and small vessels as well as capillaries. The most common clinical conditions resulting from this combination are myocardial infarction and lower extremity vascular disease. Ceriello et al. show an independent and cumulative effect of postprandial hypertriglyceridemia and hyperglycemia on endothelial function, suggesting oxidative stress as common mediator of such effect. The combination produces greater morbidity and mortality than either alone.

As an antiatherogenic factor, HDL cholesterol correlates inversely to the extent of postprandial lipemia. A high concentration of HDL is a sign that triglyceride-rich particles are quickly decomposed in the postprandial phase of lipemia. Conversely, with a low HDL concentration this decomposition is delayed. Thus, excessively high triglyceride concentrations are accompanied by very low HDL counts. This combination has also been associated with an increased risk of pancreatitis.

The importance of lipoprotein (a) (Lp(a)) as an atherogenic substance has also been recognized in recent years. Lp(a) is very similar to LDL. But it also contains Apo(a), which is very similar to plasminogen, enabling Lp(a) to bind to fibrin clots. Binding of plasminogen is prevented and fibrinolysis obstructed. Thrombi are integrated into the walls of the arteries and become plaque components.

Another strong risk factor for accelerated atherogenesis, which must be mentioned here, are the widespread high homocysteine levels found in dialysis patients. This risk factor is independent of classic risk factors such as high cholesterol and LDL levels, smoking, hypertension, and obesity, and much more predictive of coronary events in dialysis patients than are these better-known factors. Homocysteine is a sulfur aminoacid produced in the metabolism of methionine. Under normal conditions, about 50 percent of homocysteine is remethylated to methionine and the remaining via the transsulfuration pathway.

Defining hyperhomocysteinemia as levels greater than the 90th percentile of controls and elevated Lp(a) level as greater than 30mg/dL, the frequency of the combination increased with declining renal function. Fifty-eight percent of patients with a GFR less than 10mL/min had both hyperhomocysteinemia and elevated Lp(a) levels, and even in patients with mild renal impairment, 20 percent of patients had both risk factors present.

The prognosis of patients suffering from severe hyperlipidemia, sometimes combined with elevated lipoprotein (a) levels, and coronary heart disease refractory to diet and lipid-lowering drugs is poor. For such patients, regular treatment with low-density lipoprotein (LDL) apheresis is the therapeutic option. Today, there are five different LDL-apheresis systems available: cascade filtration or lipid filtration, immunoadsorption, heparin-induced LDL precipitation, dextran sulfate LDL adsorption, and the LDL hemoperfusion. The requirement that the original level of cholesterol is to be reduced by at least 60 percent is fulfilled by all these systems.

There is a strong correlation between hyperlipidemia and atherosclerosis. Besides the elimination of other risk factors, in severe hyperlipidemia therapeutic strategies should focus on a drastic reduction of serum lipoproteins. Despite maximum conventional therapy with a combination of different kinds of lipid-lowering drugs, sometimes the goal of therapy cannot be reached. Hence, in such patients, treatment with LDL-apheresis is indicated. Technical and clinical aspects of these five different LDL-apheresis methods are depicted. There were no significant differences with respect to or concerning all cholesterols, or triglycerides observed.

High plasma levels of Lp(a) are associated with an increased risk for atherosclerotic coronary heart       disease
(CHD) by a mechanism yet to be determined. Because of its structural properties, Lp(a) can have both atherogenic and thrombogenic potentials. The means for correcting the high plasma levels of Lp(a) are still limited in effectiveness. All drug therapies tried thus far have failed. The most effective therapeutic methods in lowering Lp(a) are the LDL-apheresismethods. Since 1993, special immunoadsorption polyclonal antibody columns (Pocard, Moscow, Russia) containing sepharose bound anti-Lp(a) have been available for the treatment of patients with elevated Lp(a) serum concentrations.

With respect to elevated lipoprotein (a) levels, however, the immunoadsorption method seems to be most effective. The different published data clearly demonstrate that treatment with LDL-apheresis in patients suffering from severe hyperlipidemia refractory to maximum conservative therapy is effective and safe in long-term application.

LDL-apheresis decreases not only LDL mass but also improves the patient’s life expectancy. LDL-apheresis performed with different techniques decreases the susceptibility of LDL to oxidation. This decrease may be related to a temporary mass imbalance between freshly produced and older LDL particles. Furthermore, the baseline fatty acid pattern influences pretreatment and postreatment susceptibility to oxidation.

Bambauer R, Bambauer C, Lehmann B, Latza R, and Ralf Schiel R. LDL-Apheresis: Technical and Clinical Aspects. The Scientific World Journal 2012; Article ID 314283, pp 1-19. doi:10.1100/2012/314283

Summary:  This discussion is a two part sequence that first establishes the known strong relationship between blood flow viscosity, shear stress, and plasma triglycerides (VLDL) as risk factors for hemostatic disorders leading to thromboembolic disease, and the association with atherosclerotic disease affecting the heart, the brain (via carotid blood flow), peripheral circulation,the kidneys, and retinopathy as well.

The second part discusses the modeling of hemostasis and takes into account the effects of plasma proteins involved with red cell and endothelial interaction, which is related to part I.  The current laboratory assessment of thrombophilias is taken from a consensus document of the American Society for Clinical Pathology.  The problems encountered are sufficient for the most common problems of coagulation testing and monitoring, but don’t address the large number of patients who are at risk for complications of accelerated vasoconstrictive systemic disease that precede serious hemostatic problems.  Special attention is given to Lp(a) and to homocysteine.  Lp(a) is a protein that has both prothrombotic and antithrombotic characteristics, and is a homologue of plasminogen and is composed of an apo(a) bound to LDL.  Unlike plasminogen, it has no protease activity.   Homocysteine elevation is a known risk factor for downstream myocardial infarct.  Homocysteine is a mirror into sulfur metabolism, so an increase is an independent predictor of risk, not fully discussed here.  The modification of risk is discussed by diet modification.  In the most serious cases of lipoprotein disorders, often including Lp(a) the long term use of LDL-apheresis is described.

see Relevent article that appears in NEJM from American College of Cardiology

Apolipoprotein(a) Genetic Sequence Variants Associated With Systemic Atherosclerosis and Coronary Atherosclerotic Burden but Not With Venous Thromboembolism

Helgadottir A, Gretarsdottir S, Thorleifsson G, et al

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2012;60:722-729

Study Summary

The LPA gene codes for apolipoprotein(a), which, when linked with low-density lipoprotein particles, forms lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] — a well-studied molecule associated with coronary artery disease (CAD). The Lp(a) molecule has both atherogenic and thrombogenic effects in vitro , but the extent to which these translate to differences in how atherothrombotic disease presents is unknown.

LPA contains many single-nucleotide polymorphisms, and 2 have been identified by previous groups as being strongly associated with levels of Lp(a) and, as a consequence, strongly associated with CAD. However, because atherosclerosis is thought to be a systemic disease, it is unclear to what extent Lp(a) leads to atherosclerosis in other arterial beds (eg, carotid, abdominal aorta, and lower extremity), as well as to other thrombotic disorders (eg, ischemic/cardioembolic stroke and venous thromboembolism). Such distinctions are important, because therapies that might lower Lp(a) could potentially reduce forms of atherosclerosis beyond the coronary tree.

To answer this question, Helgadottir and colleagues compiled clinical and genetic data on the LPA gene from thousands of previous participants in genetic research studies from across the world. They did not have access to Lp(a) levels, but by knowing the genotypes for 2 LPA variants, they inferred the levels of Lp(a) on the basis of prior associations between these variants and Lp(a) levels. [1] Their studies included not only individuals of white European descent but also a significant proportion of black persons, in order to widen the generalizability of their results.

Their main findings are that LPA variants (and, by proxy, Lp(a) levels) are associated with CAD,  peripheral arterial disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, number of CAD vessels, age at onset of CAD diagnosis, and large-artery atherosclerosis-type stroke. They did not find an association with cardioembolic or small-vessel disease-type stroke; intracranial aneurysm; venous thrombosis; carotid intima thickness; or, in a small subset of individuals, myocardial infarction.


The main conclusion to draw from this work is that Lp(a) is probably a strong causal factor in not only CAD, but also the development of atherosclerosis in other arterial trees. Although there is no evidence from this study that Lp(a) levels contribute to venous thrombosis, the investigators do not exclude a role for Lp(a) in arterial thrombosis.

Large-artery atherosclerosis stroke is thought to involve some element of arterial thrombosis or thromboembolism, [2] and genetic substudies of randomized trials of aspirin demonstrate that individuals with LPA variants predicted to have elevated levels of Lp(a) benefit the most from antiplatelet therapy. [3] Together, these data suggest that Lp(a) probably has clinically relevant effects on the development of atherosclerosis and arterial thrombosis.

Of  note, the investigators found no association between Lp(a) and carotid intima thickness, suggesting that either intima thickness is a poor surrogate for the clinical manifestations of atherosclerosis or that Lp(a) affects a distinct step in the atherosclerotic disease process that is not demonstrable in the carotid arteries.

Although Lp(a) testing is available, these studies do not provide any evidence that testing for Lp(a) is of clinical benefit, or that screening for atherosclerosis should go beyond well-described clinical risk factors, such as low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, high-density lipoprotein levels, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and family history. Until evidence demonstrates that adding information on Lp(a) levels to routine clinical practice improves the ability of physicians to identify those at highest risk for atherosclerosis, Lp(a) testing should remain a research tool. Nevertheless, these findings do suggest that therapies to lower Lp(a) may have benefits that extend to forms of atherothrombosis beyond the coronary tree.

The finding of this study is interesting:

[1] It consistent with Dr. William LaFramboise..   examination specifically at APO B100, which is part of Lp(a) with some 14 candidate predictors for a more accurate exclusion of patients who don’t need intervention.          Apo B100 was not one of 5 top candidates.

William LaFramboise • Our study ( comprised discovery research using targeted immunochemical screening of retrospective patient samples using both Luminex and Aushon platforms as opposed to shotgun proteomics. Hence the costs constrained sample numbers. Nevertheless, our ability to predict outcome substantially exceeded available methods:

The Framingham CHD scores were statistically different between groups (P <0.001, unpaired Student’s t test) but they classified only 16% of the subjects without significant CAD (10 of 63) at a 95% sensitivity for patients with CAD. In contrast, our algorithm incorporating serum values for OPN, RES, CRP, MMP7 and IFNγ identified 63% of the subjects without significant CAD (40 of 63) at 95% sensitivity for patients with CAD. Thus, our multiplex serum protein classifier correctly identified four times as many patients as the Framingham index.

This study is consistent with the concept of CAD, PVD, and atheromatous disease is a systemic vascular disease, but the point that is made is that it appears to have no relationship to venous thrombosis. The importance for predicting thrombotic events is considered serious.   The venous flow does not have the turbulence of large arteries, so the conclusion is no surprise.  The flow in capillary beds is a linear cell passage with minimal viscosity or turbulence.  The finding of no association with carotid artery disease  is interpreted to mean that the Lp(a) might be an earlier finding than carotid intimal thickness.  It is reassuring to find a recommendation for antiplatelet therapy for individuals with LPA variants based on randomized trials of aspirin substudies.

If that is the conclusion from the studies, and based on the strong association between the prothrombotic (pleiotropic) effect and the association with hyperhomocysteinemia, my own impression is that the recommendation is short-sighted.

[2]  Lp(a) is able to competitively inhibit the binding of plasminogen to fibrinogen and fibrin, and to inhibit the fibrin-dependent activation of plasminogen to plasmin via the tissue plasminogen activator, whereby apo(a) isoforms of low molecular weight have a higher affinity to fibrin than apo(a) isoforms of higher molecular weight. Like other compounds containing sulfhydryl groups, homocysteine enhances the binding of Lp(a) to fibrin.

Prothrombotic :

  • Binding to fibrin
  • Competitive inhibition of plasminogen
  • Stimulation of plasminogen activator inhibitor I and II (PAI -I, PAI -II)
  • Inactivation of tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI)

Source for Lp(a)

Artherogenesis: Predictor of CVD – the Smaller and Denser LDL Particles

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Ernst E, Koenig W, Matrai A, et al. Blood rheology in healthy cigarette smokers. Results from the MONICA project, Augsburg. Arteriosclerosis 1988; 8:385-8.

Ernst E. Haemorheological consequences of chronic cigarette smoking. J Cardiovasc Risk 1995; 2:435-9.

Lowe GD, Drummond MM, Forbes CD, Barbenel JC. The effects of age and cigarette-smoking on blood and plasma viscosity in men. Scott Med J 1980; 25:13-7.

Kameneva MV, Watach MJ, Borovetz HS. Gender difference in rheologic properties of blood and risk of cardiovascular diseases. Clin Hemorheol Microcirc 1999; 21:357-363.

Fowkes FG, Pell JP, Donnan PT, et al. Sex differences in susceptibility to etiologic factors for peripheral atherosclerosis. Importance of plasma fibrinogen and blood viscosity. Arterioscler Thromb 1994; 14:862-8.

Coppola L, Caserta F, De Lucia D, et al. Blood viscosity and aging. Arch Gerontol Geriatr 2000; 31:35-42.


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What is the Role of Plasma Viscosity in Hemostasis and Vascular Disease Risk?

Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD


Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

This is the first of a two part discussion of viscosity, hemostasis, and vascular risk

Part II:  Special Considerations in Blood Lipoproteins, Viscosity, Assessment and Treatment

Thesis Statement: The effects of low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein on blood viscosity correlate with their association with risk of atherosclerosis in humans.  (Seminal study)

G. D. Sloop, MD.
Department of Pathology, Louisiana State University School of Medicine,
New Orleans, LA 70112, U.S.A.

  •  Increased blood or plasma viscosity has been associated with increased atherogenesis, and that the effects of low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein on blood viscosity correlate with their association with atherosclerosis risk.
  • Low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol was more strongly correlated with blood viscosity than was total cholesterol (r = 0.4149, P = 0.0281, compared with r = 0.2790, P = 0.1505). High-density lipoprotein-cholesterol levels were inversely associated with blood viscosity (r = – 0.4018, P = 0.0341).
  • To confirm these effects, viscometry was performed on erythrocytes, suspended in saline, which had been incubated in plasma of various low-density lipoprotein/high-density lipoprotein ratios. Viscosity correlated directly with low-density lipoprotein/high-density lipoprotein ratio (n = 23, r = 0.8561, P < 0.01).
  • Low-density lipoprotein receptor occupancy data suggests that these effects on viscosity are mediated by erythrocyte aggregation.
  • These results demonstrate that the effects of low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein on blood viscosity in healthy subjects may play a role in atherogenesis by modulating the dwell or residence time of atherogenic particles in the vicinity of the endothelium.

This discussion is an additional perspective on the series on coagulation, and earlier posts that were on flow dynamics.

Stroke and Bleeding in Atrial Fibrillation with Chronic Kidney Disease

Atrial Fibrillation: The Latest Management Strategies

Outcomes in High Cardiovascular Risk Patients: Prasugrel (Effient) vs. Clopidogrel (Plavix); Aliskiren (Tekturna) added to ACE or added to ARB

Positioning a Therapeutic Concept for Endogenous Augmentation of cEPCs — Therapeutic Indications for Macrovascular Disease: Coronary, Cerebrovascular and Peripheral

New Definition of MI Unveiled, Fractional Flow Reserve (FFR)CT for Tagging Ischemia

Nitric Oxide Signalling Pathways            AviralvatsaEndothelial Dysfunction, Diminished Availability of cEPCs, Increasing CVD Risk for Macrovascular Disease – Therapeutic Potential of cEPCs

Endothelin Receptors in Cardiovascular Diseases: The Role of eNOS Stimulation

Repair damaged blood vessels in heart disease, stroke, diabetes and trauma: Cellular Reprogramming amniotic fluid-derived cells into Endothelial Cells

Septic Shock: Drotrecogin Alfa (Activated) in Septic Shock

Statins’ Nonlipid Effects on Vascular Endothelium through eNOS Activation   LHB

Nitric Oxide Covalent Modifications: A Putative Therapeutic Target?  SJWilliamspa

Vascular Wall Shear Stress

Shear Stress

  1. The basic principles concerning mechanical stress applies to pathophysiological mechanisms in the vascular bed. In physics, stress is the internal distribution of forces within a body that balance and react to the external loads applied to it. Blood flow in the circulation leads to the development of superficial stresses near the vessel walls in either of two categories:

a) circumferential stress due to pulse pressure variation inside the vessel;
b) shear stress due to blood flow.

  1. The direction of the shear stress vector is determined the blood flow velocity vector adjacent to applied against the vessel wall.
  2. Friction is the opposing force applied by the wall.
  3. Shear stresses are disturbed by turbulent flow, regions of flow recirculation or flow separation.
  4. The notions of shear rate and fluid viscosity are crucial for the assessment of shear stress.

Fluid Flow and Shear Stress

  1. Shear rate is defined as the rate at which adjacent layers of fluid move with respect to each other, usually expressed as reciprocal seconds.
  2. The size of the shear rate gives an indication of the shape of the velocity profile for a given situation.
  3. The determination of shear stresses on a surface is based on the fundamental assumption of fluid mechanics, according to which the velocity of fluid upon the surface is zero (no-slip condition).
  4. Assuming that the blood is an ideal Newtonian fluid with constant viscosity, the flow is steady and laminar and the vessel is straight, cylindrical and inelastic, which is not the case. Under ideal conditions a parabolic velocity profile could be assumed.

The following assumptions have been made:

  1. The blood is considered as a Newtonian fluid.
  2. The vessel cross sectional area is cylindrical.
  3. The vessel is straight with inelastic walls.
  4. The blood flow is steady and laminar.

The Haagen-Poisseuille equation indicates that shear stress is directly proportional to blood flow rate and inversely proportional to vessel diameter.

  1. Viscosity is a property of a fluid that offers resistance to flow, and it is a measure of the combined effects of adhesion and cohesion.
  2. Viscosity increases as temperature decreases.
  3. Blood viscosity (non-Newtonian fluid) depends on shear rate, which is determined by blood platelets, red cells, etc.
  4. Blood viscosity is slightly affected by shear rate changes at low levels of hematocrit, but as hematocrit increases, the effect of shear rate changes becomes greater.
  5. the dependence of blood viscosity on hematocrit is more pronounced in the microcirculation than in larger vessels, due to hematocrit variations observed in small vessels (lumen diameter <100 Ìm).

The significant change of hematocrit in relation to vessel diameter is associated with the tendency of red blood cells to travel closer to the centre of the vessels. Thus, the greater the decrease in vessel lumen, the smaller the number of red blood cells that pass through, resulting in a decrease in blood viscosity.

Shear stress and vascular endothelium

  1. Endothelium responds to shear stress depending on the kind and the magnitude of shear stresses.
  2. the exposure of vascular endothelium to shear forces in the normal value range stimulates endothelial cells to release agents with direct or indirect antithrombotic properties, such as
  • prostacyclin,
  • nitric oxide (NO),
  • calcium,
  • thrombomodulin, etc.

Changes in shear stress magnitude activate cellular proliferation mechanisms as well as vascular remodeling processes.

  1. a high grade of shear stress increases wall thickness and expands the vessel’s diameter
  2. low shear stress induces a reduction in vessel diameter.
  3. Shear stresses are maintained at a mean of about 15 dynes/cm2.
  4. The presence of low shear stresses is frequently accompanied by unstable flow conditions
  • turbulence flow,
  • regions of blood recirculation,
  • “stagnant” blood areas.

(Papaioannou TG, Stefanadis C. Vascular Wall Shear Stress: Basic Principles and Methods. Hellenic J Cardiol 2005; 46: 9-15.)

Hemorheology and Microvascular Disorders

Blood flow in large arteries is dominated by inertial forces exhibited at high flow velocities, while viscosity is negligible. When the flow velocity is compromised by deceleration at a bifurcation, endothelial cell dysfunction can occur along the outer wall at the bifurcation.

In sharp contrast, the flow of blood in micro-vessels is dominated by viscous shear forces since the inertial forces are negligible due to low flow velocities. Shear stress is a critical parameter in micro-vascular flow, and a force-balance approach is proposed for determining micro-vascular shear stress. When the attractive forces between erythrocytes are greater than the shear force produced by micro-vascular flow, tissue perfusion itself cannot be sustained.

The yield stress parameter is presented as a diagnostic candidate for future clinical research, specifically, as a fluid dynamic biomarker for micro-vascular disorders. The relation between the yield stress and diastolic blood viscosity (DBV) is described using the Casson model for viscosity, from which one may be able determine thresholds of DBV where the risk of microvascular disorders is high.

Cho Y-Il, and Cho DJ. Hemorheology and Microvascular Disorders. Korean Circ J 2011; 41:287-295.
Print ISSN 1738-5520 / On-line ISSN 1738-5555

Blood Rheology in Genesis of Atherothrombosis

Elevated blood viscosity is an integral component of vascular shear stress that contributes to the

  • site specificity of atherogenesis,
  • rapid growth of atherosclerotic lesions, and
  • increases their propensity to rupture.

Ex vivo measurements of whole blood viscosity (WBV) is a predictor of cardiovascular events in apparently both healthy individuals and cardiovascular disease patients. The association of an elevated WBV and incident cardiovascular events remains significant in multivariate models that adjust for major cardiovascular risk factors.

These prospective data suggest that measurement of WBV may be valuable as part of routine cardiovascular profiling, thereby potentially useful data for risk stratification and therapeutic interventions.

The recent development of a high throughput blood viscometer, which is capable of rapidly performing blood viscosity measurements across 10,000 shear rates using a single blood sample, enables the assessment of blood flow characteristics in different regions of the circulatory system and opens new opportunities for detecting and monitoring cardiovascular diseases.

Cowan AQ, Cho DJ, & Rosenson RS. Importance of Blood Rheology in the Pathophysiology of Athero-thrombosis. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther 2012; 26:339–348. DOI 10.1007/s10557-012-6402-4


English: shear stress

English: shear stress (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Shear rate dependency on fluid type a...

English: Shear rate dependency on fluid type and applied shear stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Inflammatory, haemostatic, and rheological markers

Markers of inflammation, hemostasis, and blood rheology have been ascertained to be risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke. Their role in peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is not well established and some of them, including the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6), have not been examined before in prospective epidemiological studies.

In the Edinburgh Artery Study, we studied the development of PAD in the general population and evaluated 17 potential blood markers as predictors of incident PAD. At baseline (1987), 1519 men and women free of PAD aged 55–74 were recruited. After 17 years, 208 subjects had developed symptomatic PAD. In analysis adjusted for cardiovascular risk factors and baseline cardiovascular disease (CVD), only

  1. C-reactive protein 1.30 (1.08, 1.56)
  2. fibrinogen               1.16 (1.05, 1.17)
  3. lipoprotein (a)        1.22 (1.04, 1.44),
  4. hematocrit 1.22 (1.08, 1.38) [hazard ratio (95% CI) ]

-corresponding to an increase equal to the inter-tertile range-

were significantly (P , 0.01) associated with PAD.

These markers provided very little prognostic information for incident PAD to that obtained by cardiovascular risk factors and the ankle brachial index. Other markers included:

  • IL-6
  • intracellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1)
  • D-dimer
  • tissue plasminogen activator antigen
  • plasma and blood viscosities

having weak associations, were considerably attenuated when accounting for CVD risk factors.

Tzoulaki I, Murray GD, Lee AJ, Rumley A, et al. Inflammatory, haemostatic, and rheological markers for incident peripheral arterial disease: Edinburgh Artery Study. European Heart Journal (2007) 28, 354–362. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehl441


Leukocyte and platelet adhesion under flow

Leukocyte adhesion under flow in the microvasculature is mediated by

  • binding between cell surface receptors and
  • complementary ligands expressed on the surface of the endothelium.

Leukocytes adhere to endothelium in a two-step mechanism:

  1. rolling (primarily mediated by selectins) followed by
  2. firm adhesion (primarily mediated by integrins).

These investigators simulated the adhesion of a cell to a surface in flow, and elucidated the relationship between receptor–ligand functional properties and the dynamics of adhesion using a computational method called ‘‘Adhesive Dynamics.’’

Behaviors that are observed in simulations include

  • firm adhesion,
  • transient adhesion (rolling), and
  • no adhesion.

They varied the

  • dissociative properties,
  • association rate,
  • bond elasticity, and
  • shear rate

and found that the

  1. unstressed dissociation rate, kro,
  2. and the bond interaction length, γ,

are the most important molecular properties controlling the dynamics of adhesion.

(Chang KC, Tees DFJ andHammer DA. The state diagram for cell adhesion under flow: Leukocyte rolling and firm adhesion. PNAS 2000; 97(21):11262-11267.)

  • The effect of leukocyte adhesion on blood flow in small vessels is treated as a homogeneous Newtonian fluid is sufficient to explain resistance changes in venular microcirculation.
  • The Casson model represents the effect of red blood cell aggregation and requires the non-Newtonian fluid flow model of resistance changes in small venules.

In this model the blood vessel is considered as a circular cylinder and the leukocyte is considered as a truncated spherical protrusion in the inner side of the blood vessel.

Numerical simulations demonstrated that for a Casson fluid with hematocrit of 0.4 and flow rate Q = 0:072 nl/s, a single leukocyte increases flow resistance by 5% in a 32 m diameter and 100 m long vessel. For a smaller vessel of 18 m, the flow resistance increases by 15%.

(Das B, Johnson PC, and Popel AS. Computational fluid dynamic studies of leukocyte adhesion effects on non-Newtonian blood flow through microvessels. Biorheology  2000; 37:239–258.)

Adhesive interactions between leukocytes

The mechanics of how blood cells interact with one another and with biological or synthetic surfaces is quite complex: owing to

  • the deformability of cells,
  • the variation in vessel geometry, and
  • the large number of competing chemistries present

(Lipowski et al., 1991, 1996).

Adhesive interactions between white blood cells and the interior surface of the blood vessels they contact are important in

  • inflammation and in
  • the progression of heart disease.

Parallel-plate micro-channels have been used to characterize the strength of these interactions. Recent computational and experimental work by several laboratories are directed at bridging the gap between

  • behavior observed in flow chamber experiments, and
  • cell surface interactions observed in the micro-vessels

What follows is a computational simulation of specific adhesive interactions between cells and surfaces under flow. In the adhesive dynamics formulation, adhesion molecules are modeled as compliant springs. The Bell model is used to describe the kinetics of single biomolecular bond failure, which relates

  1. the rate of dissociation kr to
  2. the magnitude of the force on the bond F.

The rate of formation directly follows from the Boltzmann distribution for affinity. The expression for the binding rate must also incorporate the effect of the relative motion of the two surfaces. Unless firmly adhered to a surface, white blood cells can be effectively modeled as rigid spherical particles. This is consistent with good agreement between bead versus cell in vitro experiments (Chang and Hammer, 2000).

Various methods have been used to bring clarity to the complex range of transient interactions between

  • cells,
  • neighboring cells, and
  • bounding surfaces under flow.

Knowledge gained from these investigations of flow systems may prove useful in microfluidic applications where the transport of

  • blood cells and
  • solubilized, bioactive molecules is needed, or
  • in miniaturized diagnostic devices

where cell mechanics or binding affinities can be correlated with clinical pathologies.

(King MR. Cell-Surface Adhesive Interactions in Microchannels and Microvessels.   First International Conference on Microchannels and Minichannels. 2003, Rochester, NY. Pp 1-6. ICMM2003-1012.

Monitoring Blood Viscosity to Improve Cognitive Function

Blood viscosity, the metric for the thickness and stickiness of blood, is associated with all major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, complications of diabetes, and it is highly predictive of stroke and MI, as well as cognitive decline. While elevated blood viscosity has a role in the etiology of atherosclerosis,  there is strong evidence for a causal role in the development of dementia.  It follows that improving blood viscosity should lead to improvements in cognitive as well as cardiovascular function.

Factors Affecting Blood Viscosity

Five cardinal factors are:

  1. Hematocrit,
  2. erythrocyte deformability,
  3. plasma viscosity,
  4. erythrocyte aggregation, and
  5. temperature

First to consider is hematocrit. Erythrocyte deformability is the ability of red blood cells to elongate and fold themselves for better hemodynamic flow in large vessels as well as for more efficient passage through capillaries.  The more deformable the red blood cells, the less viscous the blood.  Young red blood cells are flexible and tend to stiffen over their 120 day life-span.  Erythrocyte deformability is, after hematocrit, the second most important determinant of blood viscosity.

The third factor is plasma viscosity.  An important determinant of plasma viscosity is hydration status, but it is also determined by the presence of high molecular-weight proteins, especially immune globulins and fibrinogen.

Erythrocyte aggregation, the tendency of red blood cells to be attracted to each other and stick together is not well understood, but erythrocyte deformability and plasma proteins play important roles.

Blood, like most other fluids, is less viscous at higher temperatures. It is estimated that a 1°C increase in temperature results in a 2% decrease in blood viscosity.

Viscous Blood is Abrasive Blood

Maintaining efficient blood flow through the vessels forms layers, or lamina, that slide easily over each other.

  • Faster flowing blood can be found in the central layers and
  • Slower moving blood in the outer layers near the vessel walls.
  • Hyper-viscous blood doesn’t slide as smoothly as less viscous blood.
  • The turbulence damages the delicate intima of the blood vessel.

One of the most common locations for the development of atherosclerotic plaques is at the bifurcation of the carotid arteries, and the positioning of these plaques can be mapped to the turbulent blood flow patterns of this region.

Blood viscosity is highly correlated with thickening of the carotid intima-media, a prelude to plaque formation.  As the carotid arteries become progressively more occluded, there is decreased blood supply to the brain.

Hyper-viscosity also impacts the brain at the level of micro-perfusion.  Stiffened red blood cells have a decreased ability to bend and fold as they pass through capillaries. This leads to endothelial abrasion.  The capillary walls thicken and diffusion of oxygen and nutrients into the tissues decreases. The effect is most pronounced in those tissues where perfusion is essential for unimpaired function, such as the brain.

Diabetes, Blood Viscosity, and Dementia

While diabetics have elevated blood viscosity, blood viscosity is a risk factor that predicts progression from metabolic syndrome to diabetes. Red blood cell flexibility is greatly reduced by fluctuations in the osmolality of the blood which is affected by blood glucose concentration.  Uncontrolled, this leads to  small vessel disease.

  • Blindness,
  • kidney insufficiency, and
  • leg ischemia

develop as these organs are the dependent on micro-perfusion.

The Rotterdam Study and other research point to decreased cognitive function and increased dementia among diabetics as being further manifestations of the decreased perfusion that accompanies elevated blood viscosity.


Blood Viscosity, Cognitive Decline, and Alzheimer’s

Multiple forms of cognitive decline, including dementia and Alzheimers’ are impacted by increased blood viscosity. The Edinburgh Artery Study (2010) showed that blood viscosity predicted cognitive decline over a four year period in 452 elderly subjects (p<0.05).  Blood viscosity, an important determinant of the circulatory flow, was significantly linked with cognitive function.  The associations between cardiovascular risk factors, vascular dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease were presented by de la Torre (2002) (nine points of evidence) in a compelling argument that Alzheimer’s is a vascular disorder characterized by impaired micro-perfusion to the brain.

Testing for Blood Viscosity

The most recent technology uses an automated scanning capillary tube viscometer capable of measuring viscosity over the complete range of physiologic values experienced in a cardiac cycle (10,000 shear rates) with a single continuous measurement. This test provides clinicians with measurements of blood viscosity at both systolic and diastolic pressures.

Blood viscosity testing is indicated for a wide range of patients, as good tissue perfusion is central to good health regardless of what system is being addressed.  Patients with signs of cognitive decline should be high on the list of those appropriate to test, and those patients with a history or family history of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, migraines, smoking, alcoholism or other risk factors associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Source: Larsen P, Monitoring Blood Viscosity to Improve Cognitive Function

  1. World Health Organization. Dementia: A Public Health Priority. April, 2012.
  2. Sloop GD. A unifying theory of atherogenesis. Med Hypotheses. 1996; 47:321-5.
  3. Kensey KR and Cho, Y. Physical Principles and Circulation: Hemodynamics. In: The Origin of Atherosclerosis: What Really Initiates the Inflammatory Process. 2nd Ed. Summersville, WV: SegMedica; 2007:33-50.
  4. Hofman A., Ott A, et. al. Atherosclerosis, apolipoprotein E, and prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in the Rotterdam Study. Lancet, 1997, 349 (9046): 151-154


 Sleep Apnea and Blood Viscosity.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is an important public health concern, which affects around 2–4% of the population. Left untreated, it causes a decrease not only in quality of life, but also of life expectancy. Despite the fact that knowledge about the mechanisms of development of cardiovascular disease in patients with OSA is still incomplete, observations confirm a relationship between sleep disordered breathing and the rheological properties of blood.

Tażbirek M, Słowińska L, Kawalski M, Pierzchała W.   The rheological properties of blood and the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) Folia Histochemica et Cytobiologica 2011; 49(2):206–210.

Hemostatic and Rheological Risk Factors and the Risk Stratification

Backgound: Thrombosis is regarded to be a key factor in the development of acute coronary syndromes in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD). We hypothesize, that hemostatic
and rheological risk factors may be of major relevance for the incidence and the risk stratification of these patients.

  • Methods: In 243 patients with coronary artery disease and stable angina pectoris parameters of metabolism, hemostasis, blood rheology and endogenous fibrinolysis were assessed.

Patients were prospectively followed for 2 years in respect to elective revascularizations and acute coronary syndromes.

Results: During follow-up 88 patients presented with cardiac events, 22 of those were admitted to the hospital because of acute events, 5 Patients were excluded due to non- cardiac death.

Patients with clinical events were found to be more frequently diabetic and presented with a more progressed coronary atherosclerosis. Even though patients with diabetes mellitus demonstrated a comparable level of multivessel disease (71% vs. 70%) the rate of elective revascularization was higher (41% vs. 28%, p < 0.05). The results were also unfavorable for
the incidence of acute cardiovascular events (18% vs. 8%, p < 0.01).

In comparison to non-diabetic patients diabetics demonstrated significantly elevated levels of

  • fibrinogen (352 ± 76 vs. 312 ± 64 mg/dl, p < 0.01),
  • plasma viscosity (1.38 ± 0.23 vs. 1.31 ± 0.16 mPas, p < 0.01),
  • red blood cell aggregation (13.2 ± 2.5 vs. 12.1 ± 3.1 E, p < 0.05) and

plasmin-activator-inhibitor (6.11 ± 3.4 vs. 4.7 ± 2.7 U/l, p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Pathological alterations of fibrinogen, blood rheology and plasminogen-activatorinhibtor as indicators of a procoagulant state are of major relevance for the
short-term incidence of cardiac events, especially in patients with diabetes mellitus type 2, and may be used to stratify patients to specific therapies.

parameters of metabolism, hemostasis, endogenous fibrinolysis and blood rheology for patients with and without diabetes mellitus.

diabetes mellitus non-diabetic patients p-value
glucose (mg/dl) 157 ± 67 88 ± 12 <0,0001
fibrinogen (mg/dl) 351 ± 76 312 ± 64 <0,01
plasma viscosity (mPa × s-1) 1,38 ± 0,23 1,31 ± 0,16 <0,01

Jax TW, Peters AJ, Plehn G, and  Schoebel FC. Hemostatic risk factors in patients with coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes – a two year follow-up of 243 patients. Cardiovascular Diabetology 2009; 8:48-57.  doi:10.1186/1475-2840-8-48


Abnormal Viscosity in Pregnancy

Abnormal hemorheology has been shown to be in almost all conditions associated with accelerated atherosclerotic cardiovascular disorders. The aim of this study is to test the hypothesis that high concentration of plasma Triglyceride (TG) predicts altered hemorheological variables in normal pregnancy.

Sixty pregnant women attending antenatal clinic of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital at 14-36 weeks of gestation (aged 21-36 years) were recruited after giving informed consent to participate in the study. They consisted of 28 primigravidae and 32 multigravidae. Twenty-four healthy non-pregnant women of similar age and socioeconomical status were also recruited. The study showed that fasting plasma Triglyceride (TG) increased significantly in primigravidae and multigravidae.

There was a positive correlation between plasma TG level and blood viscosity (r = 0.36, p<0.01). TG also correlated positively with hematocrit (r = 0.48, p<0.001), hemoglobin concentration (r = 0.43, p<0.001) and white blood cell count (r = 0.38, p<0.01) in the pregnant group as a whole. In primigravidae, there was a strong correlation between TG and

o          blood viscosity (r = 0.63, p<0.001),

o          hematocrit (r = 0.88, p<0.001),

o          hemoglobin concentration (r = 0.85, p<0.001).

However, there was an insignificant correlation between TG and the hemorheological variables in multigravidae.

Plasma TG concentration in primigravidae is strongly associated with blood viscosity also with hematocrit and hemoglobin concentration, but the association is lost in multigravidae. Therefore, TG could be considered as an important potential indicator of altered blood rheology in primigravidae, but not in multigravidae.

Olatunji LA, Soladoye AO, Fawole AA, Jimoh RO and Olatunji VA. Association between Plasma Triglyceride and Hemorheological Variables in Nigerian Primigravidae and Multigravidae.

Research Journal of Medical Sciences 2008; 2(3):116-120. ISSN: 1815-9346.


Retinal Vein Occlusion

Retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is an important cause of permanent visual loss. Hyperviscosity, due to alterations of blood cells and plasma components, may play a role in the pathogenesis of RVO. Aim of this case-control study was to evaluate the possible association between hemorheology and RVO. In 180 RVO patients and in 180 healthy subjects comparable for age and gender we analysed the whole hemorheological profile: [whole blood viscosity (WBV), erythrocyte deformability index (DI), plasma viscosity (PLV), and fibrinogen]. WBV and PLV were measured using a rotational viscosimeter, whereas DI was measured by a microcomputer-assisted filtrometer. WBV at 0.512 sec-1 and 94.5 sec-1 shear rates as well as DI, but not PLV, were significantly different in patients as compared to healthy subjects.

At the logistic univariate analysis, a significant association between the

  • highest tertiles of WBV at 94.5 sec-1 shear rate (OR:4.91,95%CI 2.95–8.17;p<0.0001),
  • WBV at 0.512 sec-1 shear rate (OR: 2.31, 95%CI 1.42–3.77; p<0.0001), and
  • the lowest tertile of DI (OR: 0.18, 95%CI 0.10–0.32; p<0.0001) and RVO was found.

After adjustment for potential confounders,

  • the highest tertiles of WBV at 0.512 sec-1 shear rate (OR: 3.23, 95%CI 1.39–7.48; p=0.006),
  • WBV at 94.5 sec-1 shear rate (OR: 6.74, 95%CI 3.06–14.86; p<0.0001) and
  • the lowest tertile of DI (OR:0.20,95%CI 0.09–0.44,p<0.0001)

remained significantly associated with the disease. In conclusion, the data indicate that an alteration of hemorheological parameters may modulate the susceptibility to the RVO.

Sofi F, Mannini L, Marcucci R, Bolli P, Sodi A, et al.  Role of hemorheological factors in patients with retinal vein occlusion. In Blood Coagulation, Fibrinolysis and Cellular Haemostasis.  Thromb Haemost 2007; 98:1215–1219.

Summary:  This discussion is a two part sequence that first establishes the known strong relationship between blood flow viscosity, shear stress, and plasma triglycerides (VLDL) as risk factors for hemostatic disorders leading to thromboembolic disease, and the association with atherosclerotic disease affecting the heart, the brain (via carotid blood flow), peripheral circulation, the kidneys, and retinopathy as well.

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Endothelial Function and Cardiovascular Disease

Pathologist and AuthorLarry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP 


This discussion is a continuation of a series on Nitric Oxide, vascular relaxation, vascular integrity, and systemic organ dysfunctions related to inflammatory and circulatory disorders. In some of these, the relationships are more clear than others, and in other cases the vascular disorders are aligned with serious metabolic disturbances. This article, in particular centers on the regulation of NO production, NO synthase, and elaborates more on the assymetrical dimethylarginine (ADMA) inhibition brought up in a previous comment, and cardiovascular disease, including:

Recall, though, that in SIRS leading to septic shock, that there is a difference between the pulmonary circulation, the systemic circulation and the portal circulation in these events. The comment calls attention to:
Böger RH. Asymmetric dimethylarginine, an endogenous inhibitor of nitric oxide synthase, explains the ‘L-arginine paradox’ and acts as a novel cardiovascular risk factor. J Nutr 2004; 134: 2842S–7S.

This observer points out that ADMA inhibits vascular NO production at concentrations found in pathophysiological conditions (i.e., 3–15 μmol/l); ADMA also causes local vasoconstriction when it is infused intra-arterially. ADMA is increased in the plasma of humans with hypercholesterolemia, atherosclerosis, hypertension, chronic renal failure, and chronic heart failure.

Increased ADMA levels are associated with reduced NO synthesis as assessed by impaired endothelium-dependent vasodilation. We’ll go into that more with respect to therapeutic targets – including exercise, sauna, and possibly diet, as well as medical drugs.

It is remarkable how far we have come since the epic discovery of 17th century physician, William Harvey, by observing the action of the heart in small animals and fishes, proved that heart receives and expels blood during each cycle, and argued for the circulation in man. This was a huge lead into renaissance medicine. What would he think now?

Key Words: eNOS, NO, endothelin, ROS, oxidative stress, blood flow, vascular resistance, cardiovascular disease, chronic renal disease, hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis, MI, exercise, nutrition, traditional chinese medicine, statistical modeling for targeted therapy.

Endothelial Function
The endothelium plays a crucial role in the maintenance of vascular tone and structure by means of eNOS, producing the endothelium-derived vasoactive mediator nitric oxide (NO), an endogenous messenger molecule formed in healthy vascular endothelium from the amino acid precursor L-arginine. Nitric oxide synthases (NOS) are the enzymes responsible for nitric oxide (NO) generation. The generation and actions of NO under physiological and pathophysiological conditions are exquisitely regulated and extend to almost every cell type and function within the circulation. While the molecule mediates many physiological functions, an excessive presence of NO is toxic to cells.

The enzyme NOS, constitutively or inductively, catalyses the production of NO in several biological systems. NO is derived not only from NOS isoforms but also from NOS-independent sources. In mammals, to date, three distinct NOS isoforms have been identified:

  1. neuronal NOS (nNOS),
  2. inducible NOS (iNOS), and
  3. endothelial NOS (eNOS).

The molecular structure, enzymology and pharmacology of these enzymes have been well defined, and reveal critical roles for the NOS system in a variety of important physiological processes. The role of NO and NOS in regulating vascular physiology, through neuro-hormonal, renal and other non-vascular pathways, as well as direct effects on arterial smooth muscle, appear to be more intricate than was originally thought.

Vallance et al. described the presence of asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) as an endogenous inhibitor of eNOS in 1992. Since then, the role of this molecule in the regulation of eNOS has attracted increasing attention.
Endothelins are 21-amino acid peptides, which are active in almost all tissues in the body. They are potent vasoconstrictors, mediators of cardiac, renal, endocrine and immune functions and play a role in bronchoconstriction, neurotransmitter regulation, activation of inflammatory cells, cell proliferation and differentiation.

Endothelins were first characterised by Yanagisawa et al. (1988). The three known endothelins ET-1, -2 and -3 are structurally similar to sarafotoxins from snake venoms. ET-1 is the major isoform generated in blood vessels and appears to be the isoform of most importance in the cardiovascular system with a major role in the maintenance of vascular tone.

The systemic vascular response to hypoxia is vasodilation. However, reports suggest that the potent vasoconstrictor endothelin-1 (ET-1) is released from the vasculature during hypoxia. ET-1 is reported to augment superoxide anion generation and may counteract nitric oxide (NO) vasodilation. Moreover, ET-1 was proposed to contribute to increased vascular resistance in heart failure by increasing the production of asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA).

A study investigated the role of ET-1, the NO pathway, the potassium channels and radical oxygen species in hypoxia-induced vasodilation of large coronary arteries and found NO contributes to hypoxic vasodilation, probably through K channel opening, which is reversed by addition of ET-1 and enhanced by endothelin receptor antagonism. These latter findings suggest that endothelin receptor activation counteracts hypoxic vasodilation.

Endothelial dysfunction
Patients with Raynaud’s Phemonenon had abnormal vasoconstrictor responses to cold pressor tests (CPT) that were similar in primary and secondary RP. There were no differences in median flow-mediated and nitroglycerin mediated dilation or CPT of the brachial artery in the 2 populations. Patients with secondary RP were characterized by abnormalities in microvascular responses to reactive hyperemia, with a reduction in area under the curve adjusted for baseline perfusion, but not in time to peak response or peak perfusion ratio.

Plasma ET-1, ADMA, VCAM-1, and MCP-1 levels were significantly elevated in secondary RP compared with primary RP. There was a significant negative correlation between ET-1 and ADMA values and measures of microvascular perfusion but not macrovascular endothelial function. Secondary RP is characterized by elevations in plasma ET-1 and ADMA levels that may contribute to alterations in cutaneous microvascular function.

ADMA inhibits vascular NO production within the concentration range found in patients with vascular disease. ADMA also causes local vasoconstriction when infused intra-arterially, and increases systemic vascular resistance and impairs renal function when infused systemically. Several recent studies have supplied evidence to support a pathophysiological role of ADMA in the pathogenesis of vascular dysfunction and cardiovascular disease. High ADMA levels were found to be associated with carotid artery intima-media-thickness in a study with 116 clinically healthy human subjects. Taking this observation further, another study performed with hemodialysis patients reported that ADMA prospectively predicted the progression of intimal thickening during one year of follow-up.

In a nested, case-control study involving 150 middle-aged, non-smoking men, high ADMA levels were associated with a 3.9-fold elevated risk for acute coronary events. Clinical and experimental evidence suggests elevation of ADMA can cause a relative L-arginine deficiency, even in the presence of “normal” L-arginine levels. As ADMA is a competitive inhibitor of eNOS, its inhibitory action can be overcome by increasing the concentration of the substrate, L-arginine. Elevated ADMA concentration is one possible explanation for endothelial dysfunction and decreased NO production in these diseases.
Metabolic Regulation of L-arginine and NO Synthesis 
Methylation of arginine residues within proteins or polypeptides occurs through N-methyltransferases, which utilize S-adenosylmethionine as a methyl donor. After proteolysis of these proteins or polypeptides, free ADMA is present in the cytoplasm. ADMA can also be detected in circulating blood plasma. ADMA acts as an inhibitor of eNOS by competing with the substrate of this enzyme, L-arginine. The ensuing reduction in nitric oxide synthesis causes vascular endothelial dysfunction and, subsequently, atherosclerosis. ADMA is eliminated from the body via urinary excretion and via metabolism by the enzyme DDAH to citrulline and dimethylamine.
Supplementation with L-arginine in animals with experimentally-induced vascular dysfunction atherosclerosis improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation. Moreover, L-arginine supplementation results in enhanced endothelium-dependent inhibition of platelet aggregation, inhibition of monocyte adhesion, and reduced vascular smooth muscle proliferation. One mechanism that explains the occurrence of endothelial dysfunction is the presence of elevated blood levels of asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) – an L-arginine analogue that inhibits NO formation and thereby can impair vascular function. Supplementation with L-arginine has been shown to restore vascular function and to improve the clinical symptoms of various diseases associated with vascular dysfunction.

Beneficial Effects of L-Arginine

  • Angina
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Hypertension
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Sickle Cell Disease and Pulmonary Hypertension

The ratio of L-arginine to ADMA is considered to be the most accurate measure of eNOS substrate availability. This ratio will increase during L-arginine supplementation, regardless of initial ADMA concentration. Due to the pharmacokinetics of oral L-arginine and the positive results from preliminary studies, it appears supplementation with a sustained-release L-arginine preparation will achieve positive therapeutic results at lower dosing levels.

Many prospective clinical trials have shown that the association between elevated ADMA levels and major cardiovascular events and total mortality is robust and extends to diverse patient populations. However, we need to define more clearly in the future who will profit from ADMA determination, in order to use this novel risk marker as a more specific diagnostic tool.
Elimination of ADMA by way of DDAH
Asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) and monomethyl arginine (L-NMMA) are endogenously produced amino acids that inhibit all three isoforms of nitric oxide synthase (NOS). ADMA accumulates in various disease states, including renal failure, diabetes and pulmonary hypertension, and its concentration in plasma is strongly predictive of premature cardiovascular disease and death. Both LNMMA and ADMA are eliminated largely through active metabolism by dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase (DDAH) and thus DDAH dysfunction may be a crucial unifying feature of increased cardiovascular risk. These investigators ask whether ADMA is the underlying issue related to the pathogenesis of the vascular disorder.
They identified the structure of human DDAH-1 and probed the function of DDAH-1 both by deleting the Ddah1 gene in mice and by using DDAH-specific inhibitors that is shown by crystallography, bind to the active site of human DDAH-1. The loss of DDAH-1 activity leads to accumulation of ADMA and reduction in NO signaling. This in turn causes vascular pathophysiology, including endothelial dysfunction, increased systemic vascular resistance and elevated systemic and pulmonary blood pressure. The results suggest that DDAH inhibition could be harnessed therapeutically to reduce the vascular collapse associated with sepsis.
Methylarginines are formed when arginine residues in proteins are methylated by the action of protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs), and free methylarginines are liberated following proteolysis. Clear demonstration of an effect of endogenous ADMA and L-NMMA on cardiovascular physiology would be of importance, not only because of the implications for disease, but also because it would expose a link between post-translational modification of proteins and signaling through a proteolytic product of these modified proteins.
Which is it? ADMA or DDHA: Intrusion of a Genetic alteration.
The study showed that loss of DDAH expression or activity causes endothelial dysfunction, we believe that DDAH inhibition could potentially be used therapeutically to limit excessive NO production, which can have pathological effects. They then showed treated cultured isolated blood vessels with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced expression of the inducible isoform of NO synthase (iNOS) and generated high levels of NO, which were blocked by the iNOS-selective inhibitor 1400W and by DDAH inhibitors. Treatment of isolated blood vessels with DDAH inhibitors significantly increased ADMA accumulation in the culture medium. Treatment of isolated blood vessels with bacterial LPS led to the expected hyporeactivity to the contractile effects of phenylephrine, which was reversed by treatment with a DDAH inhibitor. The effect of the DDAH inhibitor was large and stereospecific, and was reversed by the addition of L-arginine.
In conclusion, genetic and chemical-biology approaches provide compelling evidence that loss of DDAH-1 function results in increased ADMA concentrations and thereby disrupts vascular NO signaling. A broader implication of this study is that post-translational methylation of arginine residues in proteins may have downstream effects by affecting NO signaling upon hydrolysis and release of the free methylated amino acid. This signaling pathway seems to have been highly conserved through evolution.

The crucial role of nitric oxide (NO) for normal endothelial function is well known. In many conditions associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, abdominal obesity, diabetes and smoking, NO biosynthesis is dysregulated, leading to endothelial dysfunction. The growing evidence from animal and human studies indicates that endogenous inhibitors of endothelial NO synthase such as asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) and NG-monomethyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA) are associated with the endothelial dysfunction and potentially regulate NO synthase.

Nitric Oxide Synthase

Asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) is one of three known endogenously produced circulating methylarginines (i.e. ADMA, NG-monomethyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA) and symmetrically methylated NG, NG-dimethyl-L-arginine). ADMA is formed by the action of protein arginine methyltransferases that methylate arginine residues in proteins and after which free ADMA is released. ADMA and L-NMMA can competitively inhibit NO elaboration by displacing L-arginine from NO synthase (NOS). The amount of methylarginines is related to overall metabolic activity and the protein turnover rate of cells. Although methylarginines are excreted partly by the kidneys, the major route of elimination of ADMA in humans is metabolism by the dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase enzymes[ dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase-1 and -2 (DDAH)] enzymes. Inhibition of DDAH leads to the accumulation of ADMA and consequently to inhibition of NO-mediated endothelium dependent relaxation of blood vessels.
The potential role of ADMA in angina pectoris has been evaluated by Piatti and co-workers, who reported ADMA levels to be higher in patients with cardiac syndrome X (angina pectoris with normal coronary arteriograms) than in controls. According to preliminary results from the CARDIAC (Coronary Artery Risk Determination investigating the influence of ADMA Concentration) study, patients with coronary heart disease (n 816) had a higher median ADMA plasma concentration than age and sex matched controls (median 0.91 vs. 0.70 mol/l; p 0.0001). Further, in a prospective Chinese study, a high plasma ADMA level independently predicted subsequent cardiovascular adverse events (cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction, and repeated revascularization of a target vessel).

Protein detoxification pathway.

Protein detoxification pathway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are only few published findings concerning variations in human DDAH. However, polymorphisms in other genes potentially related to risk factors for endothelial dysfunction and cardiovascular events have been studied. Reduced NO synthesis has been implicated in the development of atherosclerosis. For example, there are some functionally important variants of the NOS that could affect individual vulnerability to atherosclerosis by changing the amount of NO generated by the endothelium.
There are probably several functional variations in genes coding DDAH enzymes in different populations. Some of them could confer protection against the harmful effects of elevated ADMA and others impair enzyme function causing accumulation of ADMA in cytosol and/or blood.
In a study of 16 men with either low or high plasma ADMA concentrations were screened to identify DDAH polymorphisms that could potentially be associated with increased susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases. In that study a novel functional mutation of DDAH-1 was identified; the mutation carriers had a significantly elevated risk for cardiovascular disease and a tendency to develop hypertension. These results confirmed the clinical role of DDAH enzymes in ADMA metabolism. Furthermore, it is possible that more common variants of DDAH genes contribute more widely to increased cardiovascular risk.
We found a rare variation in the DDAH-1 gene, which is associated with elevated plasma concentrations of ADMA in heterozygous mutation carriers. There was also an increased prevalence of CHD and a tendency to hypertension among individuals with this DDAH-1 mutation. These observations highlight the importance of ADMA as a possible risk factor and emphasize the essential role of DDAH in regulating ADMA levels.

ADMA Elevation and Coronary Artery Disease
Endothelial dysfunction may be considered as a systemic disorder and involves different vascular beds. Coronary endothelial dysfunction (CED) precedes the development of coronary. Endothelial dysfunction is characterized by a reduction in endogenous nitric oxide (NO) activity, which may be accompanied by elevated plasma asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) levels. ADMA is a novel endogenous competitive inhibitor of NO synthase (NOS), an independent marker for cardiovascular risk.

English: Structure of asymmetric dimethylargin...

English: Structure of asymmetric dimethylarginine; ADMA; N,N-Dimethylarginine Deutsch: Asymmetrisches Dimethylarginin; N,N-Dimethyl-L-arginin; Guanidin-N,N-dimethylarginin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a small study fifty-six men without obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD) who underwent coronary endothelial function testing were studied. Men with CED had significant impairment of erectile function (P ¼ 0.008) and significantly higher ADMA levels (0.50+0.06 vs. 0.45+0.07 ng/mL, P ¼ 0.017) compared with men with normal endothelial function. Erectile function positively correlated with coronary endothelial function. This correlation was independent of age, body mass index, high-density lipoprotein, C-reactive protein, homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance index, and smoking status, suggesting that CED is independently associated with ED and plasma ADMA concentration in men with early coronary atherosclerosis.

ADMA and Chronic Renal Failure in Hepatorenal Syndrome
The concentration of SDMA was significantly higher in the patients with HRS compared to the patients without HRS and it was also higher than the values obtained from the healthy participants (1.76 ± 0.3 μmol/L; 1.01 ± 0.32 and 0.520 ± 0.18 μmol/L, respectively; p < 0.01). The concentrations of ADMA were higher in the cirrhotic patients with HRS than in those without this serious complication of cirrhosis. The concentration of ADMA in all the examined cirrhotic patients was higher than those obtained from healthy volunteers (1.35 ± 0.27 μmol/L, 1.05 ± 0.35 μmol/L and 0.76 ± 0.21 μmol/L, respectively). In the patients with terminal alcoholic liver cirrhosis, the concentrations
of ADMA and SDMA correlated with the progress of cirrhosis as well as with the development of cirrhosis complications. In the patients with HRS there was a positive correlation between creatinine and SDMA in plasma (r2 = 0.0756, p < 0.001) which was not found between creatinine and ADMA. The results demonstrate that the increase in SDMA concentration is proportionate to the progression of chronic damage of the liver and kidneys. Increased ADMA concentration can be a causative agent of renal insufficiency in patients with cirrhosis.

In patients with cirrhosis, ADMA, as well as SDMA could be markers for kidney insufficiency development. Accumulation of ADMA in plasma causes kidney
vasoconstriction and thereby retention of SDMA. Considering that ADMA has several damaging effects, it can be concluded that modulation of the activity of enzyme which participates in ADMA catabolism may represent a new therapeutic goal which is intended to reduce the progress of liver and kidney damage and thus the development of HRS.

ADMA Therapeutic Targets
Elevated plasma concentrations of the endogenous nitric oxide synthase
inhibitor asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) are found in various clinical settings, including

  • renal failure,
  • coronary heart disease,
  • hypertension,
  • diabetes and
  • preeclampsia.

In healthy people acute infusion of ADMA promotes vascular dysfunction,
and in mice chronic infusion of ADMA promotes progression of atherosclerosis.
Thus, ADMA may not only be a marker but also an active player in cardiovascular disease, which makes it a potential target for therapeutic interventions.

This review provides a summary and critical discussion of the presently available data concerning the effects on plasma ADMA levels of cardiovascular drugs, hypoglycemic agents, hormone replacement therapy, antioxidants, and vitamin supplementation.
We assess the evidence that the beneficial effects of drug therapies on vascular function can be attributed to modification of ADMA levels. To develop more specific ADMA-lowering therapies, mechanisms leading to elevation of plasma ADMA concentrations in cardiovascular disease need to be better understood.

ADMA is formed endogenously by degradation of proteins containing arginine residues that have been methylated by S-adenosylmethionine-dependent methyltransferases (PRMTs). There are two major routes of elimination: renal excretion and enzymatic degradation by the dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolases (DDAH-1 and -2).

Oxidative stress causing upregulation of PRMT expression and/or attenuation of DDAH activity has been suggested as a mechanism and possible drug target in clinical conditions associated with elevation of ADMA. As impairment of DDAH activity or capacity is associated with substantial increases in plasma ADMA concentrations, DDAH is likely to emerge as a prime target for specific therapeutic interventions.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in diabetic patients have endothelial dysfunction as a key pathogenetic event. Asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), an endogenous inhibitor of nitric oxide synthase (NOS), plays a pivotal role in endothelial dysfunction. Different natural polyphenols have been shown to preserve endothelial function and prevent CVD. Another study assessed the effect of silibinin, a widely used flavonolignan from milk thistle, on ADMA levels and endothelial dysfunction in db/db mice.

Plasma and aorta ADMA levels were higher in db/db than in control lean mice. Silibinin administration markedly decreased plasma ADMA; consistently, aorta ADMA was reduced in silibinin-treated animals. Plasma and aorta ADMA levels exhibited a positive correlation, whereas liver ADMA was inversely correlated with both plasma and aorta ADMA concentrations. Endothelium-(NO)-dependent vasodilatation to ACh was impaired in db/db mice and was restored in the silibinin group, in accordance with the observed reduction of plasma and vascular levels of ADMA. Endothelium-independent vasodilatation to SNP was not modified by silibinin administration.

Endothelin Inhibitors
Endothelins are potent vasoconstrictors and pressor peptides and are important mediators of cardiac, renal andendocrine functions. Increased ET-1 levels in disease states such as congestive heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, acute myocardial infarction, and renal failure suggest the endothelin system as an attractive target for pharmacotherapy. A non-peptidic, selective, competitive endothelin receptor antagonist with an affinity for the ETA receptor in the subnanomolar range was administered by continuous intravenous infusion to beagle dogs, rats, and Goettingen minipigs. It caused mild arteriopathy characterised by segmental degeneration in the media of mid- to large-size coronary arteries in the heart of dog, but not rat or minipig.

The lesions only occurred in the atrium and ventricle. Frequency and severity of the vascular lesions was not sex or dose related. No effects were noted in blood vessels in other organs or tissue. Plasma concentrations at steady state, and overall exposure in terms of AUC(0–24h) were higher in minipig and rat than the dog but did not cause cardiac arteriopathy. These findings concur with those caused by other endothelin anatagonists, vasodilators and positive inotropic: vasodilating drugs such as potassium channel openers, phosphodiesterase inhibitors and peripheral vasodilators.

Results by echocardiography indicate treatment-related local vasodilatation in the coronary arteries. These data suggest that the coronary arteriopathy may be the result of exaggerated pharmacology. Sustained vasodilatation in the coronary vascular bed may alter flow dynamics and lead to increased shear stress and tension on the coronary wall with subsequent microscopic trauma. In our experience with a number of endothelin receptor antagonists, the cardiac arteriopathy was only noted in studies with multiple daily or continuous intravenous infusion inviting speculation that sustained high plasma levels are needed for development of the lesions.

Up-regulation of vascular endothelin type B (ETB) receptors is implicated in the
pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease. Culture of intact arteries has been shown to induce similar receptor alterations and has therefore been suggested as a suitable method for, ex vivo, in detail delineation of the regulation of endothelin receptors. We hypothesize that mitogen-activated kinases (MAPK) and protein kinase C (PKC) are involved in the regulation of endothelin ETB receptors in human internal mammary arteries.

The endothelin-1-induced contraction (after endothelin ETB receptor desensitization) and the endothelin ETA receptor mRNA expression levels were not altered by culture. The sarafotoxin 6c contraction, endothelin ETB receptor protein and mRNA expression levels were increased. This increase was antagonized by;

PKC inhibitors (10 μM bisindolylmaleimide I and 10 μM Ro-32-0432), and
inhibitors of the p38, extracellular signal related kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) and C-jun terminal kinase (JNK) MAPK pathways
Endothelin Receptor Antagonist Tezosentan
The effects of changes in the mean (Sm) and pulsatile (Sp) components of arterial wall shear stress on arterial dilatation of the iliac artery of the anaesthetized dog were examined in the absence and presence of the endothelin receptor antagonist tezosentan (10 mg kg_1 I.V.; Ro 61-0612; [5-isopropylpyridine-2-sulphonic acid 6-(2-hydroxy-ethoxy)-5-(2-methoxy-phenoxy)-2-(2-1H-tetrazol-5-ylpyridin-4-yl)-pyrimidin-4-ylamide]).

Changes in shear stress were brought about by varying local peripheral resistance and stroke volume using a distal infusion of acetylcholine and stimulation of the left ansa subclavia. An increase in Sm from 1.81 ± 0.3 to 7.29 ± 0.7 N m_2 (means ± S.E.M.) before tezosentan caused an endothelium-dependent arterial dilatation which was unaffected by administration of tezosentan for a similar increase in Sm from 1.34 ± 0.6 to 5.76 ± 1.4 N m_2 (means ± S.E.M.).

In contrast, increasing the Sp from 7.1 ± 0.8 to a maximum of 11.5 ± 1.1 N m_2 (means ± S.E.M.) before tezosentan reduced arterial diameter significantly. Importantly, after administration of tezosentan subsequent increases in Sp caused arterial dilatation for the same increase in Sp achieved prior to tezosentan, increasing from a baseline of 4.23 ± 0.4 to a maximum of 9.03 ± 0.9 N m_2 (means ± S.E.M.; P < 0.001). The results of this study provide the first in vivo evidence that pulsatile shear stress is a stimulus for the release of endothelin from the vascular endothelium.

Exercise and Diet
Vascular endotheliumis affected by plasma asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), and it is induced by inflammatory cytokines of tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-a in vitro. Would a tight glycemic control restore endothelial function in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus (DM) with modulation of TNF-a and/or reduction of ADMA level? In 24 patients with type-2 DM, the flow-mediated, endothelium-dependent dilation (FMD: %) of brachial arteries during reactive hyperaemia was determined by a high-resolution ultrasound method. Blood samples for glucose, cholesterol, TNF-a, and ADMA analyses were also collected from these patients after fasting. No significant glycemic or FMD changes were observed in 10 patients receiving the conventional therapy.

In 14 patients who were hospitalized and intensively treated, there was a significant decrease in glucose level after the treatment [from 190+55 to 117+21 (mean+SD) mg/dL, P , 0.01]. After the intensive control of glucose level, FMD increased significantly (from 2.5+0.9 to 7.2+3.0%), accompanied by a significant (P , 0.01) decrease in TNF-a (from 29+16 to 11+9 pg/dL) and ADMA (from 4.8+1.5 to 3.5+1.1 mM/L) levels. The changes in FMD after treatment correlated inversely with those in TNF-a (R ¼ 20.711, P , 0.01) and ADMA (R ¼ 20.717, P , 0.01) levels.
The exaggerated blood pressure response to exercise (EBPR) is an independent predictor of hypertension. Asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) is an endogenous nitric oxide inhibitor and higher plasma levels of ADMA are related to increased cardiovascular risk. The aim of this study is to identify the relationship between ADMA and EBPR.

A total of 66 patients (36 with EBPR and 30 as controls) were enrolled in the study. EBPR is defined as blood pressure (BP) measurements ≥200/100 mmHg during the treadmill test. All the subjects underwent 24-h ambulatory BP monitoring. L-arginine and ADMA levels were measured using a high performance lipid chromatography technique.

The serum ADMA levels were increased in the EBPR group compared to the healthy controls (4.0±1.4 vs 2.6±1.1 μmol/L respectively, P=0.001), but L-arginine levels were similar in the 2 groups (P=0.19). The serum ADMA levels were detected as an independent predictor of EBPR (odds ratio 2.28; 95% confidence interval 1.22–4.24; P=0.002). Serum ADMA levels might play a role in EBPR to exercise.

Endothelial dysfunction occurs early in atherosclerosis in response to cardiovascular risk factors. The occurrence of endothelial dysfunction is primarily the result of reduced nitric oxide (NO) bioavailabilty. It represents an independent predictor of cardiovascular events and predicts the prognosis of the patient. Therefore, endothelial function has been identified as a target for therapeutic intervention. Regular exercise training is a nonpharmacological option to improve endothelial dysfunction in patients with cardiovascular disease by increasing NO bioavailability.

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a cause of significant morbidity and mortality in the Western world. risk factor modification and endovascular and surgical revascularisation are the main treatment options at present. However, a significant number of patients still require major amputation. There is evidence that nitric oxide (NO) and its endogenous inhibitor asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) play significant roles in the pathophysiology of PAD.

This paper reviews experimental work implicating the ADMA-DDAH-NO pathway in PAD, focusing on both the vascular dysfunction and both the vascular dysfunction and effects within the ischaemic muscle, and examines the potential of manipulating this pathway as a novel adjunct therapy in PAD.

In patients with CHF, the peripheral vascular resistance is increased via activation of the neurohormonal system, namely by autonomous sympathetic nervous system, rennin -angiotensin- aldosterone system (RAAS), and endothelin system. The vascular endothelial function in patients with CHF, mainly represented by the endothelium-dependent vasodilation, is altered.

Such alteration leads to increased vascular tone and remodeling of the blood vessels, reducing the peripheral blood flow. Hence, the amount of oxygen for the skeletal muscles is compromised, with progressive exercise intolerance. The vascular endothelial dysfunction in the CHF is mainly due to the decrease of the nitric oxide production induced by the reduced gene expression of eNOS and increased oxidative stress.

The endothelium-dependent vasodilation alteration has been virtually reported in all cardiovascular diseases. Using sauna bath as therapeutic option for CHF is not very recent, since in the 1950’s the first studies with CHF patients were conducted and the potential beneficial effect of sauna was suggested. However, some time later the studies emphasized especially its risks and recommended caution in its use for cardiac patients.

Frequently, sports medicine physicians are invited to evaluate the impact of the sauna on diseases and on health in general. Sauna can be beneficial or dangerous depending on its use. In the past few years the sauna is considered beneficial for the cardiovascular diseases’ patients, as the heart failure and lifestyle-related diseases, mainly by improving the peripheral endothelial function through the increase in cardiac output and peripheral vasodilation.

It is widely known that the vasodilators, such as angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, improve the CHF and increase the peripheral perfusion. Since the endothelial function is altered in CHF, the endothelium is considered as a new therapeutic target in heart failure. Hence, the angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors and physical training improve the endothelial function in CHF patients. One of the proposed mechanisms for the alteration of the endothelium-dependent vasodilation would be through the decrease of the NO production in the peripheral vessels in CHF patients. The decrease of peripheral perfusion would decrease the shear stress. The shear stress is an important stimulus for NO production and eNOS expression. On the other hand, the heat increases the cardiac output and improves the peripheral perfusion in CHF patients. Consequently, with the cardiac output improvement in CHF patients, an increase of the shear stress, NO production and eNOS expression are expected.

Sauna bath
The sauna bath represents a heat load of 300-600 W/m2 of body surface area. The skin temperature rapidly increases to ± 40o-41oC and the thermoregulatory mechanisms are triggered. Evaporative heat transfer by sweating is the only effective body heat loss channel in dry sauna. The sweating begins rapidly and reaches its maximum level in ± 15 min. The total sweat secretion represents a heat loss of about 200 W/m2 of the body surface area. The body cannot compensate for the heat load and causing elevation of internal temperature. The skin circulation increases substantially. The skin blood flow, in the thermo-neutral condition (± 20oC) and in rest corresponding to ± 5-10% of the cardiac output, can reach ± 50-70% of the cardiac output.

Thermal therapy in 60oC produced systemic arterial, pulmonary arterial and venous vasodilation, reduced the preload and afterload and improved the cardiac output and the peripheral perfusion, clinical symptoms, life quality, and cardiac arrhythmias in CHF patients. In infants with severe CHF secondary to ventricular septal defect, the sauna therapy decreased the systemic vascular resistance and increased the cardiac output. The sauna benefits in CHF patients are possibly caused by the improvement of the vascular endothelial function and normalization of the neurohormonal system .

Ikeda et al. discovered that the observed improvements in the sauna therapy are due to the eNOS expression increase in the arterial endothelium. They later showed that the thermal therapy with sauna improves the survival of the TO-2 cardiomyopathic hamsters with CHF and, more recently, showed that the repetitive therapy with sauna increases the eNOS expression and the nitric oxide production in artery endothelium of TO-2 cardiomyopathic hamsters with CHF.
Whether n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplementation and/or diet intervention might have beneficial influence on endothelial function was assessed using plasma levels of ADMA and L-arginine. A male population (n = 563, age 70 ± 6 yrs) with long-standing hyperlipidemia, characterized as high risk individuals in 1970–72, was included, randomly allocated to receive placebo n-3 PUFA capsules (corn oil) and no dietary advice (control group), dietary advice (Mediterranean type), n-3 PUFA capsules, or dietary advice and n-3 PUFA combined and followed for 3 years. Fasting blood samples were drawn at baseline and the end of the study.

Compliance with both intervention regimens were demonstrated by changes in serum fatty acids and by recordings from a food frequency questionnaire. No influence of either regimens on ADMA levels were obtained. However, n-3 PUFA supplementation was accompanied by a significant increase in L-arginine levels, different from the decrease observed in the placebo group (p < 0.05). In individuals with low body mass index (<26 kg/m2), the decrease in L-arginine on placebo was strengthened (p = 0.01), and the L-arginine/ADMA ratio was also significantly reduced (p = 0.04). In this rather large randomized intervention study, ADMA levels were not influenced by n-3 PUFA supplementation or dietary counselling. n-3 PUFA did, however, counteract the age related reduction in L-arginine seen on placebo, especially in lean individuals, which might be considered as an improvement of endothelial function.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) involves a broad range of empirical testing and refinement and plays an important role in the health maintenance for people all over the world. However, due to the complexity of Chinese herbs, a full understanding of TCM’s action mechanisms is still unavailable despite plenty of successful applications of TCM in the treatment of various diseases, including especially cardiovascular diseases (CVD), one of the leading causes of death.

An integrated system of TCM has been constructed to uncover the underlying action mechanisms of TCM by incorporating the chemical predictors, target predictors and network construction approaches from three representative Chinese herbs, i.e., Ligusticum chuanxiong Hort., Dalbergia odorifera T. Chen and Corydalis yanhusuo WT Wang widely used in CVD treatment, by combined use of drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) screening and network pharmacology techniques. These studies have generated 64 bioactive ingredients and identified 54 protein targets closely associated with CVD, to clarify some of the common conceptions in TCM, and provide clues to modernize such specific herbal medicines.

Ligusticum chuanxiong Hort., Dalbergia odorifera T. Chen and Corydalis yanhusuo WT Wang
Twenty-two of 194 ingredients in Ligusticum chuanxiong demonstrate good bioavailability (60%) after oral administration. Interestingly, as the most abundant bioactive compound of Chuanxiong, Ligustilide (M120) only has an adequate OB of 50.10%, although it significantly inhibits the vasoconstrictions induced by norepinephrine bitartrate (NE) and calcium chloride (CaCl2). Indeed, this compound can be metabolized to butylidenephthalide, senkyunolide I (M156), and senkyunolide H (M155) in vivo.

The three natural ingredients produce various pharmacological activities in cerebral blood vessels, the general circulatory system and immune system including spasmolysis contraction effects, inhibitory effects of platelet aggregation and anti-proliferative activity, and thus improve the therapeutic effect on patients. Cnidilide (M93, OB = 77.55%) and spathulenol (M169, OB = 82.37%) also closely correlate with the smooth muscle relaxant action, and thereby have the strongest spasmolytic activity. Carotol (M8) and Ferulic acid (M105) with an OB of 149.03% and 86.56%, respectively, demonstrate better bioavailability compared with cnidilide and spathulenol, which show strong antifungal, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.

The pharmacological activity of ferulic acid results in the improvement of blood fluidity and the inhibition of platelet aggregation, which may offer beneficial effects against cancer, CVD, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. As for 3-n-butylphthalide (M85, OB = 71.28%), this compound is not only able to inhibit platelet aggregation, but also decreases the brain infarct volume and enhances microcirculation, thus benefiting patients with ischemic stroke. Platelet aggregation represents a multistep adhesion process involving distinct receptors and adhesive ligands, with the contribution of individual receptor-ligand interactions to the aggregation process depending on the prevailing blood flow conditions, implying that the rheological (blood flow) conditions are an important impact factor for platelet aggregation. Moreover, thrombosis, the pathological formation of platelet aggregates and one of the biggest risk factors for CVD, occludes blood flow causing stroke and heart attack. This explains why the traditional Chinese herb Ligusticum chuanxiong that inhibits platelet aggregates forming and promotes blood circulation can be used in treatment of CVD.

Twenty-six percent (24 of 93) of the ingredients in Dalbergia odorifera meet the OB > 60% criterion irrespective of the pharmacological activity. Relatively high bioavailability values were predicted for the mainly basic compounds odoriflavene (M275, OB = 84.49%), dalbergin (M247, OB = 78.57%), sativanone (M281, OB = 73.01%), liquiritigenin (M262, OB = 67.19%), isoliquiritigenin (M259, OB = 61.38%) and butein (M241, OB = 78.38%). Interestingly, all of the six ingredients show obvious anti-inflammatory property. Butein, liquiritigenin and isoliquiritigenin inhibit cell inflammatory responses by suppressing the NF-κB activation induced by various inflammatory agents and carcinogens, and by decreasing the NF-κB reporter activity. Inflammation occurs with CVD, and Dalbergia odorifera, one of the most potent anti-cardiovascular and anti-cerebrovascular agents, exerts great anti-inflammatory activity.

Corydalis yanhusuo has gained ever-increasing popularity in today’s world because of its therapeutic effects for the treatment of cardiac arrhythmia disease, gastric and duodenal ulcer and menorrhalgia. In our work, 21% (15 of 73) of chemicals in this Chinese herb display good OB (60% or even high), and the four main effective ingredients are natural alkaloid agents.

Dehydrocorydaline blocks the release of noradrenaline from the adrenergic nerve terminals in both the Taenia caecum and pulmonary artery, and thereby inhibits the relaxation or contraction of adrenergic neurons. As for dehydrocavidine with an OB of 47.59%, this alkaloid exhibits a significant spasmolytic effect, which acts via relaxing smooth muscle.

In recent years, CVD has been at the top list of the most serious health problems. Many different types of therapeutic targets have already been identified for the management and prevention of CVD, such as endothelin and others. The key question asked is

  • what the interactions of the active ingredients of the Chinese herbs are with their protein targets in a systematic manner and
  • how do the corresponding targets change under differential perturbation of the chemicals?

The study used an unbiased approach to probe the proteins that bind to the small molecules of interest in CVD on the basis of the Random Forest (RF) and Support Vector Machine (SVM) methods combining the chemical, genomic and pharmacological information for drug targeting and discovery on a large scale. Applied to 64 ingredients derived from the three traditional Chinese medicines Dalbergia odorifera, Ligusticum chuanxiong and Corydalis yanhusuo, which show good OB, 261 ligand-target interactions have been constructed, 221 of which are enzymes, receptors, and ion channels. This indicates that chemicals with multiple relative targets are responsible for the high interconnectedness of the ligand-target interactions. The promiscuity of drugs has restrained the advance in recent TCM, because they were thought to be undesirable in favor of more target-specific drugs.

Target Identification and Validation
To validate the reliability of these target proteins, the researchers performed a docking analysis to select the ligand-protein interactions with a binding free energies of ≤−5.0 kcal/mol, which leads to the sharp reduction of the interaction number from 5982 to 760. These drug target candidates were subsequently subject to PharmGkb (available online:; accessed on 1 December 2011), a comprehensive disease-target database, to investigate whether they were related to CVD or not, and finally, 54 proteins were collected and retained.

Fourty-two proteins (76%) were identified as the targets of Ligusticum chuanxiong, such as dihydrofolate reductase (P150), an androgen receptor (P210) and angiotensin-converting enzyme (P209) that were involved in the development of CVD. Of the proteins, seven and two were recognized as those of Dalbergia odorifera and Corydalis yanhusuo, respectively. For Dalbergia odorifera, this Chinese herb has 48 potential protein targets, 13 of which have at least one link to other drugs.

The three herbs share 29 common targets, accounting for 52.7% of the total number. Indeed, as one of the most important doctrines of TCM
abstracted from direct experience and perception, “multiple herbal drugs for one disease” has played an undeniable role. These studies explored the targets of the three Chinese herbs, indicating that these drugs target the same targets simultaneously and exhibit similar pharmacological effects on CVD. This is consistent with the theory of “multiple herbal drugs for one disease”.

The three Chinese herbs possess specific targets. The therapeutic efficacy of a TCM depends on multiple components, targets and pathways. The complexity becomes a huge obstacle for the development and innovation of TCM. For example, the Chinese herb Ligusticum chuanxiong identifies the protein caspase-3 (P184), a cysteinyl aspartate-specific protease, as one of its specific targets, and exhibits inhibitory effects on the activity of this protease. In fact, connective tissue growth factor enables the activation of caspase-3 to induce apoptosis in human aortic vascular smooth muscle cells.

Thus, modulation of the activity of caspase-3 with Ligusticum chuanxiong suggests an efficient therapeutic approach to CVD. The Chinese herb Dalbergia odorifera has the α-2A adrenergic receptor (P216) as its specific target and probably blocks the release of this receptor, and thus influences its action. As for Corydalisyanhusuo, the protein tyrosine-protein kinase JAK2 (P9) is the only specific target of this Chinese herb. The results indicate different specific targets possessed by the three Chinese herbs.

Ligand-Candidate Target and Ligand-Potential Target Networks
Previous studies have already reported the relationships of the small molecules with CVD, which indicates the reliability of our results [45,46]. Regarding the candidate targets, we have found that prostaglandin G/H synthase 2 (P46) and prostaglandin G/H synthase 1 (P47) possess the largest number of connected ingredients. Following are nitric-oxide synthase, endothelial (P66) and tyrosine-protein phosphatase non-receptor type 1 (P8), which have 62 and 61 linked chemicals, respectively.
The 29 targets shared by the three traditional Chinese herbs exhibit a high degree of correlations with CVD, which further verifies their effectiveness for the treatment of CVD. These results provide a clear view of the relationships of the target proteins with CVD and other related diseases, which actually link the Chinese herbs and the diseases via the protein targets. This result further explains the theory of “multiple herbal drugs for one disease” based on molecular pharmacology.

Target-Pathway Network
Cells communicate with each other using a “language” of chemical signals. The cell grows, divides,or dies according to the signals it receives. Signals are generally transferred from the outside of the cell. Specialized proteins are used to pass the signal—a process known as signal transduction. Cells have a number of overlapping pathways to transmit signals to multiple targets. Ligand binding in many of the signaling proteins in the pathway can change the cellular communication and finally affect cell growth and proliferation. The authors extracted nine signal pathways closely associated with CVD in PharmGkb (available online:; accessed on 1 December 2011).

As the main components in the VEGF system, proto-oncogene tyrosine-protein kinase Src, eNOS, and hsp90-α is also recognized as common targets of Dalbergia odorifera, Ligusticum chuanxiong and Corydalis yanhusuo, which are efficient for the treatment of CVD. This implies that the candidate drugs can target different target proteins involved in the same or different signal pathways, and thereby have potential effects on the whole signal system.

Target Prediction
In search of the candidate targets, the model that efficiently integrates the chemical, genomic and pharmacological information for drug targeting and discovery on a large scale is based on the two powerful methods Random Forest (RF) and Support Vector Machine (SVM). The model is supported by a large pharmacological database of 6511 drugs and 3999 targets extracted from the DrugBank database (available online:; accessed on 1 June 2011), and shows an impressive performance of prediction for drug-target interaction, with a concordance of 85.83%, a sensitivity of 79.62% and a specificity of 92.76%. the candidate targets were selected according to the criteria that the possibility of interacting with potential candidate targets was higher than 0.6 for the RF model and 0.7 for the SVM model. The obtained candidate targets were finally reserved and were further predicted for their targets.

Target Validation
Molecular docking analysis was carried out using the AutoDock software (available online:; accessed on 1 February 2012). This approach performs the docking of the small, flexible ligand to a set of grids describing the target protein. During the docking process, the protein was considered as rigid and the molecules as flexible. The crystal structures of the candidate targets were downloaded from the RCSB Protein Data Bank (available online:; accessed on 1 December 2011), and the proteins without crystal structures were performed based on homology modeling using the Swiss-Model Automated Protein Modelling Server (available online:; accessed on 1 February 2012).

TCM is a heritage that is thousands of years old and is still used by millions of people all over the world—even after the development of modern scientific medicine. Chinese herbal combinations generally include one or more plants and even animal products.

The study identified 54 protein targets, which are closely associated with CVD for the three Chinese herbs, of which 29 are common targets (52.7%), which clarifies the mechanism of efficiency of the herbs for the treatment of CVD.

Activation of NFkB

Extracellular stimuli for NFkB activation and NFkB regulated genes
Extracellular stimuli                       Regulated genes
TNFa                                         Growth factors (G/M-CSF)
Interleukin 1                            G/M CSF, M CSF, G CSF
ROS                                              Cell adhesion molecules
UV light                            ICAM-1, VCAM, E-Selectin, P-selectin
Ischaemia                                   Cytokines
Lipopolysaccharide               TNFa, IL-1, IL-2, IL-6, interferon
Bacteria                                        Transcription regulators
Viruses                                         P53, IkB, c-rel, c-myc
Amyloid                                      Antiapoptotic proteins
Glutamate                              TRAF-1, TRAF-2, c-IAP1, c-IAP2
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are toxic and in conditions of a dysbalance between their overproduction and the diminished activity of various antioxidant enzymes and other molecules induce cellular injury termed oxidative stress. ROS are often related to a number of diseases like atherosclerosis. However, the mechanism is not clear at all. Latest years of research have brought the idea of connection between ROS and NFkB. And indeed, in vitro studies showed a rapid activation of NFkB after exposure of certain cell types to ROS. Today, no specific receptor for ROS has been found, thus, the details of the ROS induced activation of NFkB are missing.

Natural occurring agents which actions are still a matter of debate in the theory and nouvelle small molecular derivates activate or inhibit the transcriptional factor. Synthetic oligo and polypeptide inhibitors of NFkB can penetrate the cell membrane and directly act on the Rel proteins. The most sophisticated approaches towards inhibiting the activation and translocation of NFkB into the nucleus represent gene deliveries, using plasmids or adenoviruses containing genes for various super repressors—modified IkB proteins, or so called NFkB decoys, which interact with activated NFkB and thus, inhibit the interaction between the transcription factor and nuclear DNA enhancers.

A simplified scheme of the activation of NFkB by the degradation of IkB. IkB is phosphorylated by IKK and ubiquinatated by the ubiquitine ligase system (ULS). IkB is further degradated by the 26S proteasome (26S).Activated NFkB can pass the nuclear membrane and interact with kB binding sequences in enhancers of NFkB regulated genes. LPS, lipopolysaccharide; ROS, reactive oxygen species; FasL, Fas ligand; TRAF, TNFa receptor associated factor; NIK, NFkB inducing kinase; MEKK, mitogen activated protein kinase/extracellular signal regulated kinases kinases.

The medicine of this century is a medicine of molecules, the diagnostic procedure and the therapy moves further from the “clinical picture” to the use of achievements in molecular biology and genetics. However, sober scepticism and awareness are indicated. Especially the role of NFkB in multiple signal transducing pathways and the tissue dependent variability of responses to alternations in NFkB pathway may be the reasons for unwanted side effects of the therapy that are after in vitro or in vivo experiments hardly to expect in the clinical use.

Therapeutic Targets
Modern drug discovery is primarily based on the search and subsequent testing of drug candidates acting on a preselected therapeutic target. Progress in genomics, protein structure, proteomics, and disease mechanisms has led to a growing interest in an effort for finding new targets and more effective exploration of existing targets. The number of reported targets of marketed and investigational drugs has significantly increased in the past 8 years. There are 1535 targets collected in the therapeutic target database.
Knowledge of these targets is helpful for molecular dissection of the mechanism of action of drugs and for predicting features that guide new drug design and the
search for new targets. This article summarizes the progress of target exploration and investigates the characteristics of the currently explored targets to analyze their sequence, structure, family representation, pathway association, tissue distribution, and genome location features for finding clues useful for searching for new targets. Possible “rules” to guide the search for druggable proteins and the feasibility of using a statistical learning method for predicting druggable proteins directly from their sequences are discussed.

Current Trends in Exploration of Therapeutic Targets
There are 395 identifiable targets described in 1606 patents. Of these targets, 264 have been found in more than one patent and 50 appear in more than 10 patents. The number of patents associated with a target can be considered to partly correlate with the level of effort and intensity of interest currently being directed to it. Approximately one third of the patents with an identifiable target were approved in the past year. This suggests that the effort for the exploration of these targets is ongoing, and there has been steady progress in the discovery of new investigational agents directed to these targets.

Various degrees of progress have been made toward discovery and testing of agents directed at these targets. However, for some of these targets, many difficulties remain to be resolved before viable drugs can be derived. The appearance of a high number of patents associated with these targets partly reflects the intensity of efforts for finding effective drug candidates against these targets.

There are 62 targets being explored for the design of subtype-specific drugs, which represents 15.7% of the 395 identifiable targets in U.S. patents approved in 2000 through 2004. Compared with the 11 targets of FDA approved subtype-specific drugs during the same period, a significantly larger number of targets are being explored for the design of subtype-specific drugs.

What Constitutes a Therapeutic Target?
The majority of clinical drugs achieve their effect by binding to a cavity and regulating the activity, of its protein target. Specific structural and physicochemical properties, such as the “rule of five” (Lipinski et al., 2001), are required for these drugs to have sufficient levels of efficacy, bioavailability, and safety, which define target sites to which drug-like molecules can bind. In most cases, these sites exist out of functional necessity, and their structural architectures accommodate target-specific drugs that minimally interact with other functionally important but structurally similar sites.
These constraints limit the types of proteins that can be bound by drug-like molecules, leading to the introduction of the concept of druggable proteins (Hopkins and Groom, 2002; Hardy and Peet, 2004). Druggable proteins do not necessarily become therapeutic targets (Hopkins and Groom, 2002); only those that play key roles in diseases can be explored as potential targets.

 Prediction of Druggable Proteins by a Statistical Learning Method

Currently, the support vector machine (SVM) method seems to be the most accurate statistical learning method for protein predictions. SVM is based on the structural risk minimization principle from statistical learning theory. Known proteins are divided into druggable and nondruggable classes; each of these proteins is represented by their sequence-derived physicochemical features.

These features are then used by the SVM to construct a hyperplane in a higher dimensional hyperspace that maximally separates druggable proteins and nondruggable ones. By projecting the sequence of a new protein onto this hyperspace, it can be determined whether this protein is druggable from its location with respect to the hyperplane. It is a druggable protein if it is located on the side of druggable class.

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