Extent of flow recirculation governs expression of atherosclerotic and thrombotic biomarkers in arterial bifurcations

Jordi Martorell, Pablo Santomá, Kumaran Kolandaivelu, Vijaya B. Kolachalama, Pedro Melgar-Lesmes, José J. Molins, Lawrence Garcia, Elazer R. Edelman, Mercedes Balcells

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Aims Atherogenesis, evolution of plaque, and outcomes following endovascular intervention depend heavily on the unique vascular architecture of each individual. Patient-specific, multiscale models able to correlate changes in microscopic cellular responses with relevant macroscopic flow, and structural conditions may help understand the progression of occlusive arterial disease, providing insights into how to mitigate adverse responses in specific settings and individuals. Methods and results Vascular architectures mimicking coronary and carotid bifurcations were derived from clinical imaging and used to generate conjoint computational meshes for in silico analysis and biocompatible scaffolds for in vitro models. In parallel with three-dimensional flow simulations, geometrically realistic scaffolds were seeded with human smooth muscle cells (SMC) or endothelial cells and exposed to relevant, physiological flows. In vitro surrogates of endothelial health, atherosclerotic progression, and thrombosis were locally quantified and correlated best with an quantified extent of flow recirculation occurring within the bifurcation models. Oxidized low-density lipoprotein uptake, monocyte adhesion, and tissue factor expression locally rose up to three-fold, and phosphorylated endothelial nitric oxide synthase and Krüppel-like factor 2 decreased up to two-fold in recirculation areas. Isolated testing in straight-tube idealized constructs subject to static, oscillatory, and pulsatile conditions, indicative of different recirculant conditions corroborated these flow-mediated dependencies. Conclusions Flow drives variations in vascular reactivity and vascular beds. Endothelial health was preserved by arterial flow but jeopardized in regions of flow recirculation in a quasi-linear manner. Similarly, SMC exposed to flow were more thrombogenic in large recirculating regions. Health, thrombosis, and atherosclerosis biomarkers correlate with the extent of recirculation in vascular cells lining certain vascular geometries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-46
Number of pages10
JournalCardiovascular Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Endothelium
  • Flow
  • Geometry
  • Thrombosis


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